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Many women experience mastalgia — non-cancerous breast pain. Pain and tenderness may occur as a routine part of your monthly menstrual cycle. But if the pain feels unbearable or occurs during mid-cycle, you might want to take action. Breast pain can be caused by a wide array of factors and sometimes can be reduced by changing your diet, clothes or medication.

Types of Breast Pain(Mastalgia): Cyclic and Noncyclic 

To figure out which type of breast pain you have and whether it's related to your menstrual cycle, keep a daily record of your pain level. 

Cyclic Pain    

Cyclic pain usually happens as part of your menstrual cycle, due to hormonal changes and the increase in milk-producing cells and breast fluid.

The resulting pain feels dull and aching. Women usually feel it in the upper and outer portion of the breast, closest to the armpit, the location of most milk duct tissue. You may experience pain more in one breast than the other.

Finding Dietary Causes

Relief from tenderness and swelling may start with simple dietary changes:

  • A low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet
  • Adding a daily soy protein drink 

Physical Relief

You may find pain relief from:

  • A properly-fitted support bra
  • Hot and/or cold packs
  • Breast massage 

If you have no success with these remedies, see your doctor for other options. 

Noncyclic Pain    

Noncyclic pain usually occurs in a specific area and isn't related to the hormonal fluctuations of your menstrual cycle. The pain could be caused by:

  • Cysts
  • Fibroadenomas
  • Fibrocystic disease
  • Duct ectasia (widening)
  • Mastitis (inflammation)
  • Injury 
  • Breast abscesses
  • Costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage connecting the ribs to the sternum
  • Medicines for hormonal conditions, high blood pressure, heart and stomach problems

Some women even find their pain is made worse by herbal products, particularly products that are marketed as reducing premenstrual symptoms.

Most breast pain does not result from cancer. But your doctor will recommend a mammography or ultrasound if needed.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.