By Dr. Amitava Chakraborty, General Surgery
A lot of women develop pain and tenderness in their breasts. This can come and go with the monthly period cycle or it might not follow any pattern. Breast pain is also called mastalgia. It is generally of two types-
- Cyclic Pain- This is the most common type of breast pain. It is caused by monthly changes in a woman’s hormones. This usually occurs during menstrual periods. It is characterized by immense pain and heaviness which spreads to the arms and armpits. It becomes more severe when the menstrual cycle ends. Cyclic mastalgia occurs more in younger women and disappears after menopause.
- Non-cyclic Pain- This type of pain usually occurs in women who are 30 to 50 years of age. It is characterized by a burning and sharp pain in just one part of your breast. Non-cyclic pain is generally caused due to a cyst.
Does breast pain indicate breast cancer?
Breast pain is not a common symptom of breast cancer. But in some cases, painful lumps are caused by breast cancer.
You should see your doctor if:
- One or both breasts change in size or shape.
- There is a discharge from either nipple.
- There is a rash around the nipple.
- There is dimpling on the skin of the breasts.
- You feel a lump or swelling in one of your armpits.
- You feel pain in your armpits or breast that is not related to your menstrual cycle.
- You notice a change in how your nipple looks.
- You notice an area of thickened tissue, or a lump in your breast.
How can you control breast pain?
- Mastalgia can be reduced by consuming medications such as Acetaminophen.
- Some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen, aspirin and ibuprofen should be consumed to reduce pain and discomfort.
- You can also use oral contraceptives (birth control pills) to reduce breast pain. Consuming birth control pills can reduce breast swelling and breast pain before menstruation. Birth control pills can also cause mastalgia in rare cases.
- Taking magnesium supplements can also relieve premenstrual symptoms and cyclic breast pain.
- If you are experiencing immense breast pain, you can also switch to a low-fat diet and avoid milk products.
- You can also prevent breast tenderness, discomfort and pain by wearing a sports bra while exercising. It is necessary that the sports bra fits you properly which allows your breast to move together with the chest and not individually.