Breast Pain (Mastalgia)

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Many women experience mastalgia — breast pain. You might feel pain in your breast and worry that you have cancer. But most breast pain occurs as a normal part of your menstrual cycle.

When Breast Pain Doesn't Stop

It's time to see a doctor when the pain gets unbearable or happens when you're not on your period. You don't have to suffer. We can find ways to ease your pain and bring you relief. Sometimes easy changes to your diet or clothing can make a difference. Medications exist, too.

The breast care experts at UVA have experience in providing options treating breast pain. We'll also figure out if you need a mammogram or other screening to rule out breast cancer as a cause.

Mastalgia Types: Cyclic and Noncyclic 

The first thing you need to do is track the pain. Keep a daily record of your pain level for a month. This will help your care provider figure out what type of mastalgia you have. 

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. It isn't related to the hormonal ups and downs of your menstrual cycle. The pain could come from:

  • 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 try herbal products that say they reduce PMS. But many women find these make breast pain worse. 

 

 

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.