Do you Know Breast pain??

Breast pain (also known as mastalgia, mammalgia and mastodynia) is any discomfort, tenderness, or pain in the breast or underarm region, and it may occur for a number of reasons, It is very common in women of all ages. Generally, breast pain is not a sign of breast cancer. The pain may be felt as heaviness or soreness, or a stabbing or burning sensation. It can be felt in any part of the breast and may spread to nearby areas too.

Many women worry that breast pain may be a sign of a serious condition such as breast cancer, but pain by itself is rarely a sign of cancer. It may be caused by the normal monthly changes in hormones. This pain usually occurs in both breasts. It is generally described as a heaviness or soreness that radiates to the armpit and arm.

The pain is usually most severe before a menstrual period and is often relieved when a period ends. Cyclic breast pain occurs more often in younger women. In most cases, breast pain affects the upper, outer area of both breasts - the pain can sometimes spread to the arms. Most cyclic pain goes away without treatment and usually disappears at menopause.

During the menstrual cycle, various hormones cause changes in breast tissue that can lead to pain or discomfort in some women. While breasts do not typically hurt, occasional breast pain is not uncommon.

Most times, breast pain signals a noncancerous (benign) breast condition and rarely indicates breast cancer. Still, unexplained breast pain that doesn't go away after one or two menstrual cycles or that persists after menopause needs to be evaluated by your doctor.

Breast pain is usually divided into two types: pain associated with your menstrual cycle (cyclic pain), and non-cyclic pain. Each has different causes;

1. Cyclic pain
2. Non-cyclic pain

This pain can range from a mild ache to extreme tenderness and soreness. It’s usually felt in the upper/outer parts of both breasts, though sometimes it centers on one breast and they are related to menstrual cycle; and can sometimes extend under your arms, as well. The exact cause is not known but it's thought to be linked to changes in hormone levels before the start of your period.

This type of pain, tied as it is to menstruation, affects younger women, and women in peri-menopause (older women still having occasional periods). It can be accompanied by swelling, and even the development of lumps. Cyclic pain affects women in their 20s and 30s before menopause as well as women in their 40s who are transitioning to menopause.

The symptoms of cyclical breast pain are relatively mild, although some women experience more severe pain. The pain can affect either one or both breasts and is described as a heaviness, soreness, a burning, prickling or stabbing pain that radiates to the armpit and arm.

Symptoms of Cyclic pain
  • The pain comes cyclically, just like the menstrual cycle
  • Patients describe the pain like a heavy, dull ache. Some women describe it as a soreness with heaviness, while others say it is like a stabbing or burning pain
  • The breasts may become lumpy (not with a single, hard lump)
  • The pain can spread to the underarm
  • Pain becomes more intense a few days before a period begins. In some cases, pain may start a couple of weeks before menstruation
  • The breasts may become tender
Note: The above symptoms are just few, you may encounter more other symptoms relating to those ones.

These are pain which do not have identifiable cause or unrelated to the menstrual cycle. However, breast pain can sometimes be caused by benign (non- cancerous) lumps or a breast abscess. It can also be caused by mastitis - a condition related to breastfeeding which causes the breast tissue to become painful and swollen.

Non-cyclic pain may be felt in both breasts, or only one. Like cyclic pain, it can range from ache to burning to tenderness to soreness to sharp pain. It may be related to certain non- cancerous (benign) breast conditions, previous breast surgery or underlying medical conditions not directly related to the breasts. 

Non-cyclical pain is most common in women aged 30 to 50 or most likely to affect women after menopause. It may occur in only one breast. It is often described as a sharp, burning pain that occurs in one area of a breast. Women with very large breasts may experience pain due to lack of adequate support, which creates muscle strain.

Symptoms of Non-cyclic pain
  • The pain may be continuous or sporadic
  • It affects just one breast, usually just within a quadrant of the breast, but may spread across the chest
  • Extra mammary pain - pain that feels as if the source is within the breast, but it is elsewhere. Sometimes called "referred pain." This may occur in some chest wall syndromes, such as costochondritis. 
  • Mastitis - if the pain is caused by infection within the breast, the woman may have a fever, feel ill (malaise), some breast swelling and tenderness and the painful area may feel warm. There may be redness. The pain is usually described as a burning sensation. For lactating mothers, the pain is more intense while breastfeeding
Note: The above symptoms are just few, you may encounter more other symptoms relating to those ones.

In most cases the breast pain may not be treated by painkillers and wearing well-fitted bras. Being diagnosed with cyclical breast pain, as opposed to something more serious, can reassure many patients who then decide their condition is easier to live with. Cyclical breast pain is often unpredictable it may well just go away in time, and then come back periodically.

Normally Breast pains resolves on its own over time, you may not need any treatment. If you do require treatment, your doctor might recommend the following techniques to reduce pain;
  • Evening primrose oil. This supplement may change the balance of fatty acids in your cells, which may reduce breast pain.
  • Adjust birth control pills. If you take birth control pills, skipping the pill-free week or switching birth control methods may help breast pain symptoms. But don't try this without your doctor's advice.
  • Use of vitamin E, early studies showed a possible beneficial effect of vitamin E on breast pain in premenstrual women who experience breast pain that fluctuates during the menstrual cycle. 
  • Therapy: Non-cyclical breast pain may need therapy to treat the underlying cause, for instance, with infectious mastitis, the patient will be prescribed a course of antibiotics.
  • Pain killers: Some women gain relief by taking simple painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen but they are generally only of value in milder cases.
  • Don’t use tight breast holder (bra) but use the fit ones, because you may raise more pains.
Note: The above treatments are just few, please see your Doctor for further diagnosis and treatments.

There is not really any way to prevent most breast pain, but wearing a well-fitting bra for support may help. You may be able to prevent breast pain, tenderness, or discomfort by wearing a sports-bra during exercise. It is important that the sports bra fit properly. It should keep the breasts almost motionless and allow them to move together with the chest, not separately. It is important to replace your sports bra as the material stretches and become less supportive. A young woman with developing breasts may need to buy a new bra every 6 months.

Posted by: Lusubilo A. Mwaijengo



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