Breast pain (mastodynia/mastalgia) that is not related to the menstrual cycle is known as noncyclical breast pain. This can occur at any age, can be persistent, or come and go randomly. Noncyclical pain is mostly localized to one breast but may also occur in both breasts lasting for a few days up to a few months. What most women worry about is its association with cancer. In that case, breast pain is seldom associated with a tumor.
Symptoms of noncyclical breast pain
- Pain can be throbbing, pulsating, pinching, or radiating in character that is experienced with some degree of tenderness
- Heavy breasts
- Lumpiness and severe discomfort
- Irritation associated with soreness
- Pain aggravating upon any sort of sexual activity
- The breast is tender to touch
- Swelling of some degree
- Can radiate to the axillary region.
Causes of noncyclical breast pain
Noncyclical Breast Pain can occur at any point in life and is not affected by hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle. The pain can be present due to an underlying cause, some of which are as follows:
- Pregnancy: Breasts can swell up during the first trimester of pregnancy, the swelling is also associated with some degree of tenderness.
- Breastfeeding: Some women also experience breast pain due to breastfeeding.
- Mastitis: An infection in the breast known as mastitis also causes severe pain.
- Shingles: Before the rash begins to develop in shingles, breast pain is experienced.
- Breast tumors, lumps, and cancers: These are very rare and uncommon causes of mastalgia. Breast pain is only experienced in later stages due to cysts and lumps that become painful.
- Pain referred from chest wall: Often some muscles or bones in the chest wall become inflamed and cause pain that is felt in the breast.
- Mastalgia with no specific cause: Very often the breast tissue itself is sensitive and causes pain without the presence of any sort of lumps or tumors.
Breast pain that is not associated with hormonal changes over the menstrual cycle is usually indicative of another underlying cause which should be identified as early as possible or it can cause serious complications such as:
- Lactating females may be developing mastitis
- Any lump can be an early sign of cancer
- Fibrocystic breast disease
- Chest wall pain presenting as breast pain
Management of noncyclical breast pain
A detailed breast examination followed by an ultrasound or mammography depending on the examination results will help reach a proper conclusion.
In most cases, the pain goes away within a few months and does not require any sort of treatment. However, some medicines can be used to ease the pain, if it persists for too long.
- Topical analgesic that can be rubbed upon the breast
- NSAIDs for pain relief
- Causative treatment is done for each underlying cause
- Wear a properly fitted bra for better support to the breast.
When to consult a doctor?
If you experience any sort of changes in the size or shape of your breast or find any sort of newly formed lumps or discharge that was not present before, you should consult your gynecologist as early as possible for a proper breast examination.
How is cyclical breast pain different from noncyclical breast pain?
The character of pain is almost similar however, cyclical breast pain is affected by changes in hormones that take place over the entire length of the menstrual cycle and is usually experienced just before the onset of menstruation. While noncyclical breast pain can occur at any time.
Can noncyclical breast pain indicate suspected tumors?
No, breast pain is very rarely associated with tumors or cancer. Only in later stages when the fluid-filled cysts and lumps develop, do they become painful and cause pain.
What group is most at risk for developing noncyclical breast pain?
Noncyclical Breast pain can develop at any age, provided the cause. Therefore it is more commonly seen in women over the age of 40 years.