Breast pain is one of the most common breast problems. It’s not a disease, and it doesn’t always indicate cancer.
In fact, up to 70 percent of women feel some type of breast pain at some point throughout life. The amount they might experience and the severity of it varies, and it may appear in only one breast, in both breasts or even in the armpit area.
There are three types of breast pain women experience. One type is cyclical breast pain, and it’s responsible for 75 percent of all the breast pain that’s reported. It can be felt with or without lumpiness of the breast.
Also, because this type of breast pain is commonly seen with increased stress levels and changes in women’s hormones, it can be related to the timing of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Women with cyclical breast pain typically feel more pain before a period and less after it has stopped.
Non-cyclical breast pain is a second type of breast pain women may experience. It’s less common, and it’s normally felt in one exact area in the breast or in both breasts. Women with this type of breast pain can point out exactly where it hurts. We don’t know the cause of non-cyclical breast pain, but we do know it’s not related to the menstrual cycle. It’s also common for this type of breast pain to last for years and then disappear.
The third type of breast pain is non-breast origin pain, and it’s a pain that actually starts in the middle of the chest and is caused by increased stress on the joints where the ribs and breast connect. Women say it feels as though it’s coming from the breast, though. It may be related to arthritis, poor posture or a woman’s “getting older.” It is not related to the menstrual cycle in any way.
Women who report breast pain to their doctors may need to have a mammogram, which is an X-ray of the breast, or an ultrasound, depending on a review of their medical history and examination.
It’s important not to discount breast pain - and to discuss it with your doctor. After an evaluation of the pain, women often benefit from the assurance that there’s no disease or cancer that’s causing the pain.
However, there are a few things that women can do to help minimize breast pain they experience before or after evaluation.
Wear a bra that supports the breasts well, and make changes to your diet.
Some women report that decreasing the amount of or stopping caffeine, eating a low-fat diet and reducing salt intake can help relieve the pain.
Also, take vitamin supplements including 100 mg of B6 daily, 400 IU of Vitamin E daily and up to 1,000 mg of Evening Primrose Oil up to three times a day. Follow your doctor’s orders when it comes to aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications or exercising/stretching programs that may be recommended, and have fluid-filled cysts drained if they hurt.
Breast pain is worth looking in to, and it’s not something that should be put off. For more information about breast pain or breast health-related concerns, call the Blount Memorial Breast Health Center at 865-977-5590.
Dr. Kristen Carver is a board-certified, fellowship-trained radiologist specializing in breast health care on the medical staff of Blount Memorial Hospital.