Females often complain of breast pain (mastodynia/mastalgia) around the time of menstruation referred to as cyclical breast pain. This sort of pain mostly affects both breasts but could occur on one side as well, concentrated on the upper and outer parts. Cyclical breast pain commonly occurs due to the hormonal changes a woman’s body undergoes through the entire menstrual cycle. Some other causes of hormone-related pain include pregnancy, menopause, and puberty.
Symptoms of cyclical breast pain
- Tingling and burning sensations in the breast
- Pain mostly affects the outer and upper parts of the breast
- Pain also radiates in the arm
- Swollen and lumpy breast
- Severe discomfort
- Tender to touch
- Increased pain during sexual activity.
Cyclical breast pain usually occurs a few days before the onset of menstruation and goes away on its own in 1-4 days. Nevertheless, it mostly vanishes once the woman reaches the age of menopause. In contrast to that, it may persist in women who use hormone replacement therapy.
Causes of cyclical breast pain
Breast pain could be in response to hormone changes or side effects of drugs.
Women with cyclical breast pain have breast tissue that is more sensitive to hormone changes than others. Mastalgia, in this case, is nothing to worry about. Often the pain has relevant psychogenic causes.
Side effects of other drugs
At times a person might be taking some medicine for a problem that could lead to breast pain. In that case, the patient must consult their GP as early as possible. These medicines include:
- Postmenopausal estrogen and progesterone therapy
- Haloperidol (antipsychotic)
Is breast pain indicative of cancer?
People who develop cancer usually present with painful lumps in the breast but the pain in the breast itself is rarely a sign of cancer. However, in case of pain regardless of the presence of lumps, you should get a complete routine breast examination.
- Estrogen therapy
Patients often visit gynecologists concerned more about serious breast-related conditions such as breast tumors. It’s rather instinctive of a person to have such a concern but pain alone is seldom a cause of breast cancer. A detailed breast examination followed by an ultrasound or mammography depending on the examination results will help reach a proper conclusion.
Management of cyclical breast pain
Breast pain can be managed by taking some conservative and medical measures:
- Over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) prove to be an effective remedy for cyclical breast pain
- Topical diclofenac or topical ibuprofen have also proved great relief.
- Evening primrose: A few studies suggest that using this gamolenic acid-based product is effective in relieving breast pain and could be used with proper instructions from your physician.
- Well-fitted bra: One of the first things that are advised to patients presenting with breast pain is to get a properly fitted bra from a tailoring expert. The wrong size of bra can worsen the pain by poorly supporting the breast.
- Diet: A good diet goes a long way.
- Foods that include caffeine such as chocolates, coffee, sodas, tea, etc. should be avoided at all costs.
You can not surely prevent mastodynia as it occurs in response to hormonal changes that take place during a normal menstrual cycle, but taking some healthy measures can help you to cope better with the pain. These include:
- Cutting down on caffeine consumption
- Wearing a properly fitted bra or a sports bra while you are working out
- Eating a low-fat diet
When to consult a doctor?
Subsequently, the patient goes to a doctor a few days from the time of the onset of the pain. The patient is often concerned more about a serious breast-related condition such as a breast tumor. Breast pain can be very distressing at times and in such a case immediately consult your gynaecologist and ask for assistance.
Which doctor should I consult with in case of breast pain?
You can visit a general surgeon or a gynaecologist.
Which medicines can I use for breast pain?
Most doctors advise using over-the-counter pain relievers. These include ibuprofen and NSAIDs.
Do I need to get tests done?
Based on your physical examination, your doctor can suggest an ultrasound test of the breast.