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Breast Pain: What is it and What Could be the Cause?

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 15 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
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Many women fear pain in their breasts because they assume that it is indicative of breast cancer. Actually, most breast cancer is painless so while pain in the breast does indicate that something is happening in the breast, it does not usually indicate a serious problem. In fact, most women experience pain in the breast on a cyclical basis in relation to their menstrual cycle, so determining what type of pain is being experienced is helpful in diagnosing the cause of breast pain.

Types of Breast Pain

Breast pain in general is known as mastalgia, but there are two main types of breast pain. Cyclical breast pain is the type that is attributable to the menstrual cycle. Pain related to this cycle usually makes breasts feel tender, sore and/or heavy. Breast pain that is not related to the menstrual cycle is often called non-cyclical breast pain. This type of pain is often described as shooting, stabbing, darting or burning. This type of breast pain may not have a discernable pattern.

Causes of Breast Pain

Cyclical breast pain is by definition related to the menstrual cycle, though it is known to be intensified by activities such as heavy lifting, smoking and eating a poor diet. Non-cyclical breast pain usually stems from the breast tissues themselves, from the pectoral muscles under the breast or even from the ribs. Wearing the wrong bra can cause breast pain to intensify as the breasts are not properly supported if a bra does not fit correctly. Women who do wear the right size bra may find that wearing a sports bra helps. If wearing the right sized bra or a sports bra does not impact breast pain, then this is most likely not the cause.

Common Treatments for Breast Pain

Treating breast pain is a combination of relieving the pain and addressing the cause. For cyclical breast pain, many women find that aspirin, ibuprofen or over the counter premenstrual relief tablets helps their symptoms. Avoiding heavy lifting, quitting smoking and concentrating on eating a healthy diet may also help relieve cyclical breast pain. Non-cyclical breast pain may also be relieved by aspirin or ibuprofen, though prescription painkillers may be required. If over the counter pain relievers do not help, women experiencing non-cyclical breast pain should discuss their condition with their doctors and follow the professional advice regarding activities levels, diet and pain medication. If non-cyclical breast pain continues, tests may be advised in order to discover the root cause.

At one time or another most women experience pain in their breasts. Breast pain is usually not indicative of life-threatening conditions, but that does not mean that it may not disrupt daily life or make certain activities hard for the woman experiencing it. Keeping track of the type of pain, when it occurs and what was happening when it occurred will help women see the pattern of their pain and help determine if it is cyclical or non-cyclical in nature. A variety of lifestyle changes, diet changes and pain relievers may be employed to help combat breast pain, though if it continues it should be reported to a doctor for further investigation.

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