Breast pain (Mastalgia, Mastodynia)
About 70% of women experience pain in their breast area in their lifetime. However, only about 15% of cases require treatment. Mostly, breast pain affects women who have not reached menopause.
The pain may be located in different areas of the breasts and may affect one or both breasts as well as the armpit area. Also, the magnitude of the pain can differ: it can be small, such as tenderness or a sensitivity to touch; manifest by a feeling of heaviness or tension; or take the form of shooting pains.
There are two types of breast pain:
Cyclical breast pain – this is strictly connected to the endocrine system, and it appears in the week preceding menstruation. It is usually located in the upper external quadrants of the breasts. It can be more severe in women with mastopathic changes or cysts.
Non-cyclical breast pain – this is not linked to hormonal activity. It may appear anywhere in the breast area and has various causes.
The most common causes of breast pain include:
1. Cysts in the breast – filled with liquid and encapsulated, cysts can enlarge before menstruation and cause pain.
2. Fibrocystic changes (mastopathy) – mastopathy usually causes pain in the upper external quadrants of the breast prior to menstruation.
3. Mastitis – this mainly affects women who are breastfeeding or weaning and is due to a plugged duct. Symptoms are inflammation, which can be observed in the form of a red area on the skin; increased temperature; swelling; and breast pain.
4. Previous breast surgery – scar formation can be accompanied by stabbing and pulling pains.
5. Inflammation in the costoclavicular joint – this manifests as pain along the sternum when the bone is touched.
6. Hematoma – this occurs after injury or contusion and is accompanied by bruises and abrasions.
7. Ill-fitting bra.
8. Medicines – hormonal medicines, antidepressants, some diuretics.
9. Breast cancer – even though breast cancer does not cause pain in most cases, some types of breast cancer, such as inflammatory breast cancer, can simulate inflammation and cause local pain. Growing tumors may cause a feeling of discomfort and tenderness in the breast.
However, no pain in the breast area should be neglected. Every case of chronic pain or sudden, acute pain should be discussed with a doctor.
Regardless of the presence or absence of breast pain, regular prophylactic breast examinations should be performed.