Breast pain, aka “mastalgia,” accounts for almost half of all breast-related complaints. However, before you jump to conclusions (breast cancer!), read the following.
If you are suffering from pain, tenderness or increased sensitivity to touch or pressure in one or both breasts, we can understand that you are probably scared and imagining the worst.
So let’s get a few facts straight first. Breast pain itself is usually not a sign of breast cancer; according to experts, it is much more likely that the tender, aching breasts may be caused by something else.
Listed below are the 5 most likely reasons why you are experiencing pain or even increased sensitivity in your breasts:
Mastitis is an infection of breast tissue that causes inflammation, that is, abnormal swelling and redness of the breasts.
In most cases, it is the result of an infection of a woman’s milk ducts and occurs in breastfeeding mothers. During breastfeeding, bacteria living in the baby’s mouth can enter the woman’s breast through the nipple.
In addition to breast pain, mastitis can cause symptoms such as:
General discomfort in the breasts.
A fever of 38.3 C (101 F) or higher.
Chills, fatigue, or malaise.
Warm or red breast skin.
There is also often nipple discharge or pus.
If left untreated, mastitis can lead to an abscess. After diagnosis, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics (to treat the infection) and NSAIDs (to relieve pain, swelling, and fever).
Finding a lump in the breast can be frightening. However, not all tumors and lumps are cancerous. One such benign (that is, non-cancerous) tumor is called a fibroma. It occurs most often in women under the age of 30.
Fibromas are very small, but noticeably different from the surrounding breast tissue. Their boundaries are clearly defined, and they can move under the skin. To the touch, they look like small balls and can be rubbery.
Although the exact cause of fibromas is not fully understood, the hormone “estrogen” is thought to play a role in the initiation and development of these benign tumors. In addition, the use of oral contraceptives in women under the age of 20 is also associated with an increased risk of developing fibroids.
These benign tumors can grow, especially if you are pregnant. After menopause, women often report that fibromas shrink. Fibromas can resolve spontaneously. Sometimes, however, if they reach a large size, they may need to be surgically excised.
A cyst in the breast may feel like a lump, but it is actually a small and usually harmless sac in the breast tissue that is filled with fluid, not cancerous or non-cancerous cells.
They can be found in one or both breasts and may be accompanied by signs and symptoms such as:
Heaviness or pain in the breast in the area of the cyst.
A discharge from the nipple, which may be clear, straw-colored, or even dark brown.
Smooth and easily movable lump with clear boundaries or edges (indicates benign nature).
Changes in breast soreness and lump size depending on the menstrual cycle.
Simple fluid-filled breast cysts are usually confirmed on ultrasound and rarely require any treatment. If symptoms are severe, your doctor may prescribe birth control or hormone therapy. In rare cases, surgery is recommended.
Cyclical breast pain, that is, pain that comes and goes with your period, is the most common cause of mastalgia. This symptom is part of a group of symptoms that are collectively called premenstrual syndrome or PMS.
It usually occurs in women because of normal monthly hormone fluctuations, and usually this pain occurs in both breasts. Estrogen causes the ducts of the mammary glands to dilate, and progesterone causes the mammary glands to swell, resulting in sore breasts. Women who suffer from menstrual-induced breast pain often describe it as soreness or heaviness in the breasts, radiating to the arm and armpit.
Typically, this pain becomes most severe just before menstruation and often ceases when menstruation ends. It occurs most often in young women and usually disappears after menopause.
Your diet may be the culprit behind your breast pain. Foods high in sodium, caffeine or fat are great examples.
Other foods to watch out for include:
Peanuts, walnuts, almonds and other dried foods.
Black tea, green tea, sodas and other beverages with caffeine
Processed condiments or sauces
Salted fries or popcorn
Red meat and sausages
If you have not yet seen a doctor and despite restricting your intake of the foods listed, your pain