• Breast pain also known as Mastalgia is a very common problem especially among young women
  • It affects 7 out of 10 women at some point during their lives
  • Breast pain is categorized into two types :  Cyclical and Non cyclical Mastalgia
  • Cyclical breast pain appears to vary with the menstrual cycle, usually worse in the few days before the period, improving thereafter. It is most common in women in their 20s and 30s. The pain is commonly felt in the upper outer parts of both the breasts. Cyclical breast pain may also worsen during perimenopausal period. If the pain is severe, then it should be immediately evaluated by a breast specialist
  • Non cyclical breast pain does not appear to vary with the menstrual cycle.  It is more common in women in their 40s or older. The pain is usually restricted to a small area of one breast. This type of breast pain should always be evaluated by a breast specialist
  • Each type of breast pain requires different treatments and identifying the cause accurately is of paramount importance

Cyclical breast pain which is the commonest type results from monthly fluctuations of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone

Non-cyclical breast pain can be due to benign breast conditions like cysts, fibroadenoma, medications like antidepressants, diuretics or trauma. Occasionally the pain may also be due to costochondritis, gastritis or cardiac ailments

Breast pain alone is rarely a symptom of breast cancer. Only about 3 out of 100 women presenting with pain as their main problem are diagnosed with breast cancer. However, any breast pain that is new, recurrent or persistent, or associated with a lump, skin or nipple changes should always be evaluated

Cyclical breast pain may worsen around menopause due to erratic surge in the hormones levels and the pain may continue in a few women after menopause especially those on hormone replacement therapy. Women are advised to continue annual screening mammography and discuss any unusual breast symptoms with a breast surgeon

Breast pain is common, affecting as many as 70% of women at some point in their lifetime. Only a small percentage, around 10% of these women will experience severe pain, which can have a significant impact on work and daily life

Any woman who is concerned about breast pain can benefit from consulting her healthcare provider. However, in certain cases, it is crucial to seek medical attention. A breast specialist should be consulted in the following instances:

  • Breast pain is persistent
  • Pain gets worse with time
  • Pain interferes with daily activities
  • Pain associated with nipple discharge
  • Pain along with signs of infection like fever, local redness
  • Localized pain in one area of the breast

Simple measures that may help cyclical mastalgia include:

  • Reduction in the intake of caffeine in tea coffee
  • Consumption of a low salt, low fat diet
  • Wearing a well fitting supportive bra
  • Application of warm or cold compresses when the breasts are painful
  • Regular exercise and weight reduction
  • Medications – Evening primrose oil, vitamin E ,Paracetamol or an anti-inflammatory agents, Low dose oral contraceptive pills

Consult a breast specialist for guidance if the pain is severe

This type of breast pain should always be evaluated by a breast surgeon for accurate diagnosis. Non cyclical mastalgia due to breast cysts can be aspirated and fibroadenomas can be excised

Lifestyle factors such as stress and diet can also contribute to breast pain. Studies show that cyclical breast pain can be made worse due to certain food and drink choices. Pain may also worsen due to emotional stress and prolonged inactivity.

Dietary Triggers for Breast Pain

  • Caffeine
  • High salt intake
  • Fatty foods
  • Alcohol


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