Breast pain, also known as “mastalgia,” accounts for nearly half of all breast-related complaints. However, before you jump to conclusions (breast cancer!), read on.
If you have pain, increased sensitivity to touch or pressure in one or both breasts, we understand that you are probably scared and imagining the worst.
Let’s start by setting the record straight. Breast pain itself is usually not a sign of breast cancer; experts say it’s much more likely that tight, sore breasts are caused by something else.
Below are the five most likely reasons you may be experiencing breast pain or increased tenderness:
Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that causes inflammation, which is abnormal swelling and redness of the breasts.
In most cases, it is the result of an infection of the woman’s milk ducts and occurs in nursing mothers. During breastfeeding, bacteria from the baby’s mouth can enter the woman’s breast through the nipple.
In addition to breast pain, mastitis can cause symptoms such as:
General breast discomfort.
A fever of 38.3 C (101 F) or higher.
Chills, fatigue or malaise.
Hot or red skin on the breasts.
There is also often nipple discharge or pus.
If left untreated, mastitis can lead to an abscess. After diagnosis, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics (to treat the infection) and NSAIDs (to relieve pain, swelling and fever).
Finding a lump in the breast can be frightening. However, not all lumps and bumps are cancerous. Such a benign (non-cancerous) tumor is called a fibroid. It occurs most often in women under the age of 30.
Fibroids are very small, but significantly different from the surrounding breast tissue. Their boundaries are clearly defined and they can move under the skin. To the touch, they feel like small balls and may be rubbery.
Although the exact cause of fibroids is not fully understood, it is believed that the hormone “estrogen” plays a role in the initiation and development of these benign tumors. In addition, the use of oral contraceptives in women under the age of 20 is also associated with an increased risk of developing fibroids.
These benign tumors can develop, especially if you are pregnant. After menopause, women often report that fibroids shrink. Fibroids can shrink on their own. Sometimes, however, if they grow to a large size, they must be surgically removed.
A cyst in the breast may look like a lump, but it is actually a small, usually harmless sac in the breast tissue, filled with fluid and not with cancerous or non-cancerous cells.
They can be found in one or both breasts and may be accompanied by signs and symptoms such as:
Heaviness or pain in the breast in the area of the cyst.
A discharge from the nipple, which may be clear, straw-colored or even dark brown.
A smooth, easily moved lump with clear borders or edges (indicates a benign nature).
Changes in breast pain and lump size with the menstrual cycle.
Simple fluid-filled breast cysts are usually confirmed by ultrasound and rarely require treatment. If symptoms are severe, your doctor may prescribe birth control or hormone therapy. In rare cases, surgery is recommended.
Cyclical breast pain, pain that comes and goes with your period, is the most common cause of mastalgia. This symptom is part of a group of symptoms collectively known as premenstrual syndrome or PMS.
It usually occurs in women due to normal monthly hormonal fluctuations, and this pain usually occurs in both breasts. Estrogen causes the ducts of the mammary glands to dilate and progesterone causes the mammary glands to swell, resulting in sore breasts. Women who experience breast pain due to menstruation often describe it as a pain or heaviness in the breasts, radiating to the arm and armpit.
This pain usually becomes more intense just before menstruation and often stops at the end of the period. It occurs most often in young women and usually disappears after menopause.
Your diet may be the culprit behind your breast pain. Foods high in sodium, caffeine or fat are good examples.
Other foods to watch for include:
Peanuts, walnuts, almonds and other dry foods.
black tea, green tea, sodas and other drinks containing caffeine
Processed condiments or sauces
French fries or salted popcorn
Red meat and sausages
If you have not yet consulted a physician and despite restricting the foods listed above,