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Breast pain

Definition

Breast pain is any discomfort or pain in the breast.

Alternative Names

Pain - breast; Mastalgia; Mastodynia; Breast tenderness

Considerations

There are many possible causes for breast pain. For example, hormone level changes from menstruation or pregnancy often cause breast tenderness. Some swelling and tenderness just before your period is normal.

Some women who have pain in one or both breasts may fear breast cancer. However, breast pain is not a common symptom of cancer.

Causes

Some breast tenderness is normal. The discomfort may be caused by hormone changes from:

Soon after having a baby, a woman's breasts may become swollen with milk. This can be very painful. If you also have an area of redness, call your health care provider.

Breastfeeding itself may also cause breast pain.

Fibrocystic breast changes are a common cause of breast pain. Fibrocystic breast tissue contains lumps or cysts that tend to be more tender just before your menstrual period.

Certain medicines may also cause breast pain, including:

Shingles can lead to pain in the breast if the painful blistering rash appears on the skin of your breasts.

Home Care

If you have painful breasts, the following may help:

There is no good evidence to show that reducing the amount of fat, caffeine, or chocolate in your diet helps reduce breast pain. Vitamin E, thiamine, magnesium, and evening primrose oil are not harmful, but most studies have not shown any benefit. Talk to your health care provider before starting any medicine or supplement.

Certain birth control pills may help ease breast pain. Ask your provider if this therapy is right for you.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your health care provider will perform a breast examination and ask questions about your breast pain. You may have a mammogram or ultrasound.

Your provider may schedule a follow-up visit if your symptoms have not gone away in a given period of time. You may be referred to a specialist.

References

Katz VL, Dotters D. Breast diseases: diagnosis and treatment of benign and malignant disease. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 15.

Managing your: breast pain. In: Alvero R, Ferri FF, Fort GG, et al, eds. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2015. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2014:section V.


Review Date: 11/4/2014
Reviewed By: John A. Daller, MD, PhD., Department of Surgery, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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