Breast pain: what are the causes?

Breast pain, also called mastodynia, is often related to women’s menstrual cycle, but can also occur outside the menstrual period. Pain in the breast or nipple is most often the result of a benign condition, but in some cases can reveal a much more serious pathology.

Causes, consequences, treatment… Let’s take stock of this symptom together.

How to recognize breast pain?

Anatomy of the breast

Each breast consists of a mammary gland, fat, and supporting tissue. It is also composed of:

  • multiple lobules;
  • a nipple (nipple);
  • channels;
  • an areola;
  • ligaments;
  • of a lymphatic system.

Types of breast pain

Breast pain also called breast pain, mastalgia or mastodynia, is a common ailment in women especially related to the hormonal cycle. They can be mild, moderate, or severe, be constant or occur only occasionally.

Having “breast pain” can manifest itself in the form of swinging, cramping, or burning. There are generally two types of breast pain:

  • Pain related to the menstrual cycle (menstruation): we talk about cyclical pain. These affect both breasts and are likely to last a few days a month (before menstruation) or a week or more per month (i.e. a few days before menstruation and during);
  • Non-cyclical pain: those that occur at other times and are therefore not associated with the menstrual cycle.

What causes breast pain?

Menopause or pre-menopause

Note that around 45-50 years will appear in some women, large changes in the level of hormones in the blood, with a disruption of the cycle. This is called pre-menopause and then menopause. Literally, stopping the rules. This period can be particularly physical for some women with:

  • severe pain in the breast;
  • sleep and mood disorders;
  • hot flashes.

Do not hesitate to consult a doctor or gynecologist to medically organize a hormonal transition to alleviate the symptoms of this painful period.

Pain related to breastfeeding

During breastfeeding, women may experience breast pain:

  • when milk has risen;
  • if there is engorgement of the breasts;
  • if milk ducts are blocked;
  • or in case of mastitis (a bacterial infection) sometimes hyper Algic (inflammation of the mammary gland, or even a bacterial infection).

Pain before menstruation

Hormone levels vary during a menstrual cycle. This variation in progesterone and estrogen levels can cause breast pain. One to two weeks before the start of the cycle, most of the time swelling of the breasts and pain can be observed.

Cyclical breast pain tends to decrease with pregnancy or after menopause.

Non-cyclical breast pain

Most often, it is the hormones associated with the menstrual cycle that are involved. In these cases, the breasts increase in size and become hard, tense, swollen, and painful (from mild to moderate). This is normal. But other factors can cause breast pain. For example:

  • the presence of breast cysts, or breast nodules (mobile mass, which is more painful when it is large);
  • trauma to the breasts;
  • past breast surgery
  • taking certain medications (such as fertility treatments or birth control pills, hormones, antidepressants, etc.);
  • simple breast size (women with large breasts may experience pain);
  • or pain from the chest wall, heart, or surrounding muscles that has radiated to the breasts.

Note that in general, breast cancer is not painful. But if the tumor is large, it can lead to pain.

What are the symptoms associated with breast pain?

It is important to see a doctor when the pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • the presence of a lump in the breast;
  • redness
  • fluid flow outside of pregnancy
  • a hard and painful mammary gland.

What are the consequences of breast pain?

Breast pain can become increasingly bothersome if not taken into account and treated. The pain may intensify. It may also be a sign of a pathology that is best-taken care of quickly.

Breast pain: how to treat and prevent the pain?

Diagnosis of mastodynia

To determine the cause of breast pain, the doctor may:

  • do a clinical examination of the breast (palpation of the breasts);
  • ask the radiologist for imaging: mammography, breast ultrasound;
  • or a biopsy (that is, removing a piece of breast tissue for analysis).

Treatment of breast pain

Breast pain can become increasingly bothersome if not taken into account and treated. The pain may intensify. As we have seen, this can be a sign of a pathology that is better-taken care of quickly.

As mentioned above, it is not normal to have chest pain except as part of the cycle and after a medical examination, if the doctor informs you that there is no need to worry, he will prescribe a treatment in case of pain to be taken each cycle.

Pain prevention

Do not hesitate to practice self-examination once or twice a week and to consult a doctor in the slightest doubt. The treatment will be that of the cause.

Image Credit: Image by stefamerpik on Freepik

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