Most women will experience breast pain at some stage in their lives. But what’s causing it? And how do you know if you need to go to a doctor?
We look at some of the most common causes of breast pain and tips for relieving pain.
Breast pain or mastalgia is a very common in women and is often linked to the menstrual cycle. Many women will find that their breasts become sore and tender just before their period, which may be a result of fluctuating hormone levels.
Dr Chantel Thornton, a specialist breast cancer surgeon based at Epworth Richmond, says that 70% of women will experience breast pain or mastalgia, and that it’s totally normal.
Breast pain is not a dangerous symptom and just 10 percent of breast cancer is associated with breast pain.
Around two thirds of breast pain is cyclical and this type of pain tends to affect pre-menopausal women in their 20s or 30s. Pain that does not change with the menstrual cycle is known as non-cyclical pain and typically affects women in their 40s or older.
Non-cyclical pain can be caused by things like fibroadenomas, cysts, age-related changes to the milk ducts or even an injury or inflammation in the chest wall area. Sometimes women will experience breast pain that is caused by a muscle injury rather than any breast abnormalities and often, there will be no specific cause identified.
Dr Chantel suggests that women keep a ‘pain diary’ to keep track of their pain and to determine whether its cyclical or non-cyclical. If there are any patterns in the breast pain, or if it’s continuing after the end of a woman’s period, that’s when a person would need to speak to their doctor.
To relieve the symptoms of painful breasts, there are a number of things that women can do. Simple things like wearing a supportive bra that is correctly fitted can help to reduce breast pain. Some women find that complimentary therapies like acupuncture or relaxation therapies can also help to reduce pain.
Dr Chantel says that evening primrose oil (EPO) is commonly used to relieve the symptoms of breast pain. EPO can be bought over the counter and Dr Chantal recommends that women take four grams per day with food, for a minimum of four months.
Additionally, anti-inflammatory gels like Feldene can be applied topically in the days before a woman’s period to reduce their pain. For some women, oral contraceptive pills may make symptoms of breast pain worse and in depending on the person, it may be necessary to change pill prescription.
07 November 2018