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Breast pain, also referred to as mastodynia or mastalgia, is a common symptom encountered by approximately 50-70% females worldwide. It might appear due to several disorders or diseases and is frequently present during menstrual cycle. This type of pain is usually felt in the upper parts of the breast, however it can also affect the armpits or even radiate to the arms. Although breast pain affects females, it can occasionally appear in boys during puberty.
Breast pain classification
This type of pain can be divided into 2 major categories:
- Cyclical – which occurs during menstrual cycle and often presents itself with high intensity of the pain. It do not require any specific treatment and is not considered as dangerous ailment, since it relieves after the cycle. It is the most common type of mastalgia and frequently affects younger women. Cyclical pain do not occur after the menopause, excluding females which are under hormone replacement therapy.
- Non-cyclical – which is not associated with menstrual cycle. It usually affects females between 30 and 50 years of age and develop due to external factors or underlying condition. It can also appear as a consequence of injury.
Breast pain causes
Pain, discomfort or tenderness felt in the breast may be caused due to numerous reasons. Changes in the levels of hormone during menstrual cycle is the most common cause of cyclical pain, however, the exact mechanism responsible for this state is still unclear. On the other hand, non-cyclical pain is frequently caused by pregnancy, breast feeding or use of certain medications and drugs. Despite the general opinion, breast pain do not indicates breast cancer, as mastalgia occurs relatively rare during this type of disease.
Common causes of non-cyclical mastalgia include:
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding
- Breast lumps, which are developing due to fibrocystic breast disease.
- Fibroadenoma, which is a benign tumor located in breast.
- Breast cyst
- Mechanical injury of the breast during work or physical exercise.
- Use of certain medications, herbs or drugs, such as methyldopa, digitalis, anabolic steroids and certain diuretics. Alcoholism may also result in breast pain.
Home remedies for cyclical breast pain
Breast pain can be prevented or relieved by making simple adjustments. Efficient methods include caffeine and sodium intake reduction, use of estrogen blockers or oral contraceptives and calcium supplementation. Wearing sport or supportive bra is highly recommended for women during physical exercise or hard work. When selected and fitted properly, it successfully prevents from injuries that may result in breast pain or tenderness.
In majority of the cases specific treatment is unnecessary. However if needed, possible methods vary, depending on the type of the pain, its severity and the patient’s age. In case of cyclical pain, the most common methods include intake of painkillers, such as ibuprofen, aspirin or acetaminophen. Tamoxifen, bromocriptine and danazol is used only for severe and chronic mastalgia under a specialist’s supervision, since it may lead to various side effects. Treatment methods for non-cyclical breast pain are strongly linked with an underlying condition or injury.
When to see a doctor
Healthcare is strongly recommended when one or more of those features appear:
- Discharge from one or both nipples
- Rash on the breasts or around nipples
- High temperature
- Change in the shape, size or location of the breast