Causes Of Breast Pain

Breast pain, also known as mastalgia, is pain or tenderness in the breasts. The condition is more common among younger women who haven’t completed menopause. In most cases, it is caused by harmless conditions; but in rare cases, it can indicate breast cancer. It is advisable to talk to a doctor if the problem persists for longer than the duration of a menstrual cycle.

Breast pain can range from mild to severe and is usually either cyclic or noncyclic. Cyclic breast pain is usually related to the menstrual cycle. It is often accompanied by breast swelling and commonly affects both breasts. The pain starts and intensifies two weeks before the start of the period and then gradually fades away. In most cases, it affects women in the age group of 20-30 years and can also affect women who are transitioning to menopause.

Non-cyclic breast pain, on the other hand, is not related to the menstrual cycles. In most cases, it affects only one of the breasts and is more likely to happen in women who have completed menopause.

Breast pain can be caused by a number of reasons, the most common of which include:

  • Breast cysts: Noncyclic breast pain is often due to changes in the milk ducts or glands. This can cause the development of breast cysts. Breast pain may also start in the chest muscles and radiate to the breast.
  • Hormonal reason: Cyclic breast pain is strongly associated with the hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle. This kind of pain subsides or stops completely after menopause.
  • Fatty acid imbalance: Fatty acids’ imbalance within the breast cells may increase the sensitivity of the breast tissues to the hormones.
  • Breast size: Women with large breasts may have noncyclic breast pain. Shoulder and back pain may accompany breast pain in this case.
  • Medications: Hormonal medications such as oral contraceptives might cause breast pain. Tenderness of the breasts is a potential side effect of estrogen and progesterone hormone therapies. Breast pain can also be caused by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants.

Author:

Dr. Inthu
MBBS, M.S obstetrics and PhD in Gynecology