Most women (up to 7 in 10 women) develop breast pain at some stage in life develop breast pain at some stage in their life.
Different types of breast pain:
Cyclical Breast Pain (develops in the days just before a period)
Cyclical breast pain is common and can occur at any stage after periods start, but commonly occurs in ages between 30 and 50. It does not occur in women past the menopause when the periods have stopped.
What are the symptoms?
Cyclical pain can be severe and begin 1-2 weeks prior to your period. The severity can vary from month to month. Typically the pain affects both breasts and is usually worst in the upper and outer part of the breast, but may travel down the arms. If you have cyclical breast pain your breasts may also become larger, tender, and slightly lumpy in the week or so before a period.
What causes cyclical breast pain?
It is thought that breast tissue is more sensitive than usual due to the hormonal changes that occur each month. It is not due to any hormone diseases, or to any problem in the breast itself.
Treatment Options for Cyclical Pain
Wear a well supportive bra when you have pain, and a sports bra when you are exercising. It is best to avoid underwired bras.
I.e. paracetamol or ibuprofen. Take regularly on the days when the breasts are painful.
- Topical Anti-Inflammatory Creams
I.e. Topical diclofenac or topical ibuprofen
The contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may make cyclical breast pain worse. If appropriate, it may be worth discussing with your doctor stopping or changing the preparation to see if this helps.
Fatty acids may have a role in causing breast pain, so adjusting your diet by reducing animal fats (butter, cream, fatty meat) and increasing your intake of fresh fruit and veg can be helpful.
Medication such as danazol or tamoxifen can ease pain in most cases. These medicines work by reducing the level, or blocking the effect of female hormones such as oestrogen. You need to take them regularly (not just when the pain occurs). Significant side effects are common with these drugs so they are not usually recommended until breast pain does not ease with other treatments.
Non-cyclical Breast Pain (pain not related to periods)
This type of breast pain is not related to periods and is most common in women over 40. The pain may be in just one breast, and may be localised to one area in a breast. Sometimes pain is felt all over both breasts.
There can be many causes for non-cyclical pain:
- Pain coming from the breast tissue itself in the absence of any lumps, tumors, or other abnormality being detected. The reason why this type of pain occurs is unknown
- Pain coming or radiating from the chest wall under the breast rather than the breast itself. Muscular or bony problems of the chest account for some of these cases.
- Breast cancer is a very uncommon cause of breast pain
Treatment for Non-Cyclical Breast Pain
In many cases the pain goes after a few months without any treatment. Anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen may ease the pain. Topical anti-inflammatory cream may also work.
Other treatments may be appropriate, depending on whether a cause is found.