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Breast pain: 7 main causes and what to do

Breast pain also known as mastalgia it is a common symptom that affects about 70% of women, and may be caused by common hormonal changes related to PMS, menstruation or menopause, but in some cases it can be related to other more serious situations such as breastfeeding mastitis, presence of breast cysts, or even, breast cancer.

Breast pain can be controlled with home remedies such as warm patches, massage during bath and comfortable clothing and bra, and rarely needs to be treated with medication. However, if the pain and discomfort remains for more than 15 days and does not appear to be related to menstruation or menopause, you should go to a gynecologist for an evaluation, and if necessary, perform tests.

Main causes for mastalgia

Breast pain: 7 main causes and what to do

Mastalgia can occur in just one breast or both at the same time, and may even radiate to the arm. When this breast pain is mild, it is considered normal, but can also be severe preventing the the woman from doing her daily tasks. Here we indicate the most common causes of breast pain, and when it can be cancer, which is one of women's main fear.

1. Onset of puberty

Girls between the ages of 10 and 14, who are entering puberty, may experience minor pain or discomfort in the breasts that are beginning to grow, and therefore become more sore.

What to do: No specific treatment is needed, but bathing in warm water may relieve discomfort. At this stage it is also important to wear a bra that provides good support for the breast size.

2. PMS or menstruation

Before and during menstruation the hormonal changes can cause mastalgia in some women, not being serious, although it bothers every month. It can cause pain like stitches, tenderness in the breasts or at the beak of the breast. When the pain is mild or moderate and lasts from 1 to 4 days, it is considered normal, but when it lasts more than 10 days and radiates to the arm or armpit it causes many disorders and one should go to the doctor to investigate.

What to do: Medication is rarely taken, but taking a birth control pill may help relieve symptoms and may also help decrease menstrual cramps. When the pain bothers you greatly, your gynecologist may indicate taking Bromocriptine, Danazol, Tamoxifen. There are also natural options such as Agnus Castus, Primrose Oil, or Vitamin E, which should be taken for 3 months and then assess the results.

3. Pregnancy

The breasts can become especially sensitive at the beginning and the end of the pregnancy due to the growth of the mammary glands or breast milk production, for example. If you suspect you may be pregnant check out 10 pregnancy symptoms

What to do: Putting warm patches can help relieve the discomfort, as well as taking a bath with warm water and massaging the area. In pregnancy it is recommended to use a breastfeeding bra for better support of the breasts.

4. Breast pain while breastfeeding 

During breastfeeding when the breasts are full of milk, they become hard and very sore, but if the sharp pain is located in the beak of the breast, this can indicate a crack, which causes intense pain and even bleeding.

What to do: If the breast is full of milk the best strategy is to breastfeed or take the milk out with a pump. If the nipples are sore, the area should be well observed to check for any clogged ducts or cracks at area where you feel pain, which prevents the milk from passing through and may cause mastitis, which is a more serious condition. So if you have problems with breastfeeding, the nurse specialist in obstetrics can tell you in person what to do to solve this problem.

5. Use of medication

Taking certain medications such as Aldomet, Aldactone, Digoxin, Anadrol and Chlorpromazine can cause breast pain as a side effect.

What to do: The doctor should be informed about the onset of this symptom and also its intensity. The doctor may check the possibility of giving another type of medication that does not cause mastalgia.

6. Breast cysts

Some women have an irregular breast tissue called fibrocystic breasts, which can cause pain primarily before menstruation. This type of problem is not linked to cancer, but it also causes the formation of nodules in the breasts that can grow or disappear on their own.

What to do: In cases where the pain is not related to menstruation, you can use medication like Tylenol, which is paracetamol, Aspirin or Ibuprofen, under medical indication

7. Changes in contraceptive

When starting to take or change contraceptive, breast pain may occur. This pain may be mild or moderate and usually affects both breasts at the same time, and there may also be a burning sensation.

What to do: Massage during the bath and wear a comfortable bra can be a good solution while the body does not adapt to the contraceptive pill, which can take 2 to 3 months.

In addition to these causes there are many others such as trauma, physical exercise, thrombophlebitis, sclerosing adenosis, benign tumors or macrocysts, which can be clarified by the gynecologist or mastologist. If breast pain continues to be present even with the home remedies indicated here, it is recommended you go to the doctor, so he can make the diagnosis and indicate the most appropriate treatment for your situation.

When breast pain can be cancer

Rarely, breast pain is a sign of cancer, since malignant tumors usually do not cause pain. When you have breast cancer normally other symptoms are present such as discharge from the nipple and dimpling of a part of the breasts skin. See what are the 11 symptoms to look out for.

Women are at higher risk for breast cancer if their mother or grandmother had breast cancer, over 45 years of age, and those who have had some form of cancer. Young women who breastfed and who had only benign lesions or even benign cysts in the breast don't have a high risk of breast cancer.

In case of suspicion one should go to a gynecologist to investigate and perform a mammography from the age of 40.

When to go to the doctor

You should seek a doctor when the chest pain is strong or lasts more than 10 consecutive days, or if it arises along with symptoms such as:

  • Clear or bloody discharge from the nipple;
  • Redness or pus in the breast;
  • Fever or
  • The appearance of a lump in the breast after menstruation.

In addition, it is important to go to a gynecologist at least once a year to do tests that assess the health of the breast and reproductive system, preventing problems and identifying diseases early on.

The doctor usually evaluates the breasts by observing the location of the pain, if there are changes such as asymmetry or retraction of the breast at some point, and also look for inflamed or painful armpits or clavicles to check if there is a need to request examinations such as mammography, ultrasound or breast ultrasound, especially if there are cases of breast cancer in the family.

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