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Breast Pain & Tenderness

Breast pain (called mastalgia) is the most common breast-related complaint among women; nearly 70% of women experience breast pain at some point in their lives. Breast pain may occur in one or both breasts or in the underarm (axilla) region of the body. The severity of the pain varies from woman to woman and approximately 15% of women require treatment. Though breast pain is not normally associated with breast cancer women who experience any breast abnormalities, including breast pain, should consult their health care professional.

There are two main types of breast pain: Cyclical breast pain is related to how the breast tissue responds to monthly changes in a woman's estrogen and progesterone hormone levels. If breast pain is accompanied by lumpiness, cysts (accumulated packets of fluid), or areas of thickness, the condition is usually called fibrocystic disease. During the menstrual cycle, breast tissue sometimes swells because hormonal stimulation causes the breast's milk glands and ducts to enlarge, and in turn, the breasts retain water. The breasts may feel swollen, painful, tender, and/or lumpy a few days before menstruation. Breast pain and swelling usually ends when menstruation is over. The average age of women who have cyclical breast pain is 34. Cyclical breast pain may last for several years, but it usually stops after menopause unless a woman uses estrogen replacement therapy (ERT).

Of all women who experience breast pain, two-thirds experience cyclical breast pain. Health care professionals often ask patients to chart their pain to determine whether the pain is cyclical. While cyclical breast pain is usually related to the menstrual cycle, stress may also affect hormone levels and thus influence breast pain. Physical activity, especially heavy lifting or prolonged use of the arms, has also been shown to increase breast pain (pectoral, or chest, muscles may become sore from physical activity).

Women who experience non-cyclical breast pain often experience pain in one specific area of one or both breasts. Woman who experience injury to the breast or those who undergo breast biopsy sometimes have non-cyclical pain. The condition may occur in both pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women and usually subsides after one to two years. Non-cyclical pain is most common in women between 40 and 50 years of age.

Another type of non-cyclical pain called costochondritis does not actually occur in the breast, although that's where it feels like it's coming from. This is a type of arthritic pain felt towards the middle of the chest where the ribs and the breast bone connect. Costochondritis may occur as the result of poor posture or aging. Women who experience costochondritis usually describe it as a burning sensation in the breast.

Health care professional will perform clinical breast examinations, and if necessary, order additional breast imaging exams (such as mammography or ultrasound) to help determine whether the pain is related to another breast condition or possibly cancer. If no breast abnormality is indicated, the health care professional and the woman should decide together whether drug treatment is necessary. Most women with moderate breast pain are not treated with medications or surgical procedures. The following suggestions have been shown to reduce breast pain in some women:

  • Wear a good, supportive bra to reduce breast movement. (Many women with breast pain find it comfortable to also wear a bra while they sleep)
  • Limit sodium intake
  • Reduce caffeine intake (coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate)
  • Maintain a low fat diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains
  • Maintain an ideal weight. Losing excess weight may reduce breast pain by stabilizing hormone levels
  • Occasionally, use over-the-counter pain-relief drugs such aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen
  • Take vitamins. Some women have found that taking vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B1 (thiamine), and/or vitamin E relieves breast pain
Evening Primrose Oil

By interfering with the production of inflammatory prostaglandins released during menstruation, the GLA in evening primrose oil can greatly lessen premenstrual breast tenderness.

Inflammation & Pain

A natural pain reliever without the toxic effects to the liver from steroids, corisone, NSAIDS (Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory drugs) such as (Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Tylenol and Aleve).
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