What do I need to know about breast pain?
Many women have breast tenderness and pain, also called
mastalgia. It may come and go with monthly periods (cyclic) or may not follow
any pattern (noncyclic).
- Cyclic pain is the most common type of breast
pain. It may be caused by the normal monthly changes in hormones. This pain
usually occurs in both breasts. It is generally described as a heaviness or
soreness that radiates to the armpit and arm. The pain is usually most severe
before a menstrual period and is often relieved when a period ends. Cyclic
breast pain occurs more often in younger women. Most cyclic pain goes away
without treatment and usually disappears at
- Noncyclic pain is most common
in women 30 to 50 years of age. It may occur in only one breast. It is often
described as a sharp, burning pain that occurs in one area of a breast.
Occasionally, noncyclic pain may be caused by a
fibroadenoma or a
cyst. If the cause of noncyclic pain can be
found, treating the cause may relieve the pain.
Breast pain can get worse with changes in your hormone levels or
changes in the medicines you are taking. Stress can also affect breast pain.
You are more likely to have breast pain before menopause than after
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.
What can I do for breast pain?
You may be able to relieve breast pain by using nonprescription
medicines. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Acetaminophen, such as Tylenol
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as
ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), naproxen (Aleve or Naprosyn), or aspirin (Anacin,
If breast pain becomes severe or lasts longer than 3 weeks, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
If you are
pregnant or trying to become pregnant, talk to your doctor before using any
medicine. Do not take aspirin if you are younger than 20
because of the risk of
Danazol and tamoxifen citrate are prescription
medicines used for the treatment of severe cyclic breast pain. These medicines
are rarely used because they have significant side effects. It is important to
determine whether the benefits will outweigh the risks of taking these
You may also be able to relieve breast pain by:
- Using birth control pills (oral
contraceptives). These may help reduce cyclic breast pain and breast swelling
before periods. But breast pain is also a known side effect of birth control
- Taking magnesium. Magnesium supplements taken in the second
half of the menstrual cycle (usually the 2 weeks before the next period)
relieve cyclic breast pain as well as other premenstrual
- Eating a very low-fat diet.
Some women feel they have less breast pain when they
decrease the amount of caffeine they consume.
Can I prevent breast pain?
You may be able to prevent breast pain, tenderness, or discomfort
by wearing a sports bra during exercise. It is important that the sports bra
fit properly. It should keep the breasts almost motionless and allow them to
move together with the chest, not separately. It is important to replace your
sports bra as the material stretches and become less supportive. A young woman
with developing breasts may need to buy a new bra every 6 months.