Breast pain is a common breast problem. Although continued pain is a concern, it is rarely the only symptom of breast cancer. Most breast cancers involve a mass or lump, either found by the patient or clinician or found as an abnormality on routine breast imaging. About 70 percent of women experience breast pain in their lives, and only 15 percent will require treatment. Please contact your care provider with any continuing breast pain, and be sure to have a clinical breast examination prior to making your breast imaging appointment.
There are two categories of breast pain: cyclical and non-cyclical. Cyclical breast pain is the normal pain that women experience, usually prior to their cycle or period, and is caused by hormone stimulation.
Following are some helpful tips on breast pain causes:
- Pain will occur before your menstrual period and then usually subsides.
- Pain will occur in both breasts.
- Pain is uncommon in post-menopausal women unless they are on hormone replacement therapy.
- Pain can be associated with a lump, mass, swelling or cyst.
- Keep a diary of the pain if it persists. This can help you determine if the pain is cyclical.
- Limit foods that produce arachidonic acid like certain cheeses, nuts, mushrooms, meats, wine and bananas, which may contribute to premenstrual syndrome.
- Most cancers do not cause pain, although cancer needs to be excluded, particularly if there is a lump in the breast.
Non-cyclical breast pain is pain not related to the menstrual cycle. Following are signs that breast pain is non-cyclical: Can be felt in a certain area or only one breast
- Can be from injury or biopsy
- May be an infection or abscess
- May be found in pre- or post-menopausal women
- May be associated with pregnancy and breast feeding
- May be secondary to water retention
- Will subside with time, usually one to two years
- Is most common in women 40 to 50 years old
- Pain in chest muscle could be from exercise or inflammation or trauma of ribs and sternum
- May be caused by use of oral contraceptives and hormones
- May be caused by weight gain
- May be caused by an ill-fitting bra
Tips for the treatment of breast pain:
- Wear a properly fitted bra
- Take non-prescription pain medications
- Avoid caffeine
- Limit foods that contribute to PMS like some types of cheeses and nuts, red meats, egg yolks and some vegetables
- Losing weight may help breast pain by stabilizing hormone levels
- If felt to be related to water weight gain, take diuretics and avoid salt
- Take vitamin E (400-800 IUs per day), B1 or B6
- Oral Evening Primrose Oil may help
- For severe pain, see your care provider for prescription drugs such as Danazol or Bromocriptine
- If pain is related to a cyst, removing the fluid or cyst aspiration may help
- Surgery is usually not recommended.
Having pain in your breast or feel a lump but aren’t sure what to do? Maybe breast cancer runs in your family and have questions about genetic testing?
Call our Mammo Tech Hotline at (970) 569-7417 and talk to a Certified Breast Expert, Monday-Friday between 9 AM - 4 PM.
Please contact your care provider with any continuing breast symptoms and be sure to have a clinical breast exam prior to making your breast imaging appointment.
Sonnenalp Breast Center is a service of Vail Health Hospital.