Should I Be Worried About My Breast Pain?

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About Breast Pain

Benign (non-cancerous) breast problems have been estimated to affect as many as 50 to 70 percent of women in the U.S. The most common benign breast complaint is premenstrual breast discomfort and lumpy breasts.
These complaints have been labeled as a fibrocystic condition. The term “fibrocystic” can be frightening. It is simply a medical term that describes lumpy and painful breasts. It is important to note that most fibrocystic breast tissue is not associated with an increased risk for the development of breast cancer.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms range from mild, annoying generalized discomfort to tingling, stinging, or sharp pain throughout the breast. The breasts may feel full or heavy, and it may be uncomfortable to sleep on your stomach or wear a bra. The breasts may simply feel lumpy. Symptoms of tenderness, swelling and lumpiness vary with the menstrual cycle and are usually more severe just before menstruation.

Why do women have it?

Normal breasts are affected by changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle. Premenstrual levels of estrogen and progesterone cause the breast to feel more lumpy and/ or swollen. In many women, the lumpiness and/or pain becomes more pronounced as they get older. Perhaps this is a result of increased sensitivity to these normal hormones. The breasts usually feel most tender during the week before menstruation. Sometimes the breasts are painful through most of the cycle.

What can I do about it?

Relief and comfort for premenstrual breast symptoms include mechanical, dietary, pharmacological and psychological measures. A well-fitted support bra (e.g. sports bra) worn 24-hours a day when the breasts are most sensitive may help relieve pain associated with movement. Changing to a larger bra size may be helpful if breast swelling occurs. Heat, in the form of a heating pad, warm compresses, or a bath can provide relief. For some women, using an ice pack or cold compress may be more effective.
For women who are overweight, weight loss and ideal weight maintenance may reduce breast pain. A low-fat, high carbohydrate diet may reduce breast pain. Reducing salt in the diet and increasing noncaffeinated fluids (8-10 glasses a day) may decrease the tendency for the breasts to swell. Eliminate methylxanthines (caffeine, theophylline, theobromine) from the diet. These are found in coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolate, and some medications. Vitamin B1 (100 mg) each day and Vitamin E (800 I.U.) daily may be helpful.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen may help reduce discomfort. Stress can affect breast pain indirectly because emotions can influence hormone levels, which, in turn, affect the breasts.
There is no guaranteed remedy for cyclical breast discomfort. However, the good news is that it is not a sign of breast cancer, and usually disappears with the onset of menopause. Persistent, localized breast pain is an infrequent danger sign but should not be ignored. See your doctor for a complete breast examination and mammogram, if appropriate.

Get Screened

The Women’s Center at Shore Imaging provides breast health diagnostic procedures such as: screening and diagnostic mammography, stereotactic biopsy, ultrasound and ultrasound-guided biopsy.
Bone density screening and evaluations are also provided. A Mammogram is very affordable, with our rates starting as low as $100 for patients without insurance.

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