What is Breast Pain or Mastalgia?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Feb 05, 2014
Quick Bites

  • Breast pain can be classified into cyclical breast pain and non-cyclical breast pain.
  • Breast pain does not indicate that the woman has breast cancer.
  • Visit a doctor if there is an unusual discharge from the nipple.
  • Of all the causes of breast pain, psychological reasons could be one too.

Breast pain, which is also referred to as mastalgia is a common problem among women and may manifest in a dull ache, tightness, heaviness, breast tenderness or a burning sensation in the tissue of the breasts. If breast pain happens at the time of menstrual cycle, it is referred to as cyclical mastalgia or cyclical breast pain.

The Breast Cancer Foundation says that breast pain includes any sort of tenderness, pain or discomfort occurring in the underarm region or in the breast. Mastalgia can be experienced by women for a variety of reasons. In a lot of cases, breast pain is not really a sign of breast cancer. Those women who are concerned that cyclical mastalgia would indicate a threatening underlying medical condition can save heart because the National Health Service, UK, says that cyclical breast pain is not a risk of an impending breast cancer.


Signs and Symptoms of Breast Pain or Mastalgia

Breast pain is usually described as either cyclical or non-cyclical.

Signs and symptoms of a cyclical breast pain are:
•    Breasts may become tender
•    The pain that occurs may be cyclical in nature just like the menstrual cycles
•    Breasts may swell
•    The pain experienced varies from women to women. While some women say that it is like a heavy, dull ache, others describe it as heaviness or a burning and stabbing pain
•    Typically, both the breasts get affected and usually the upper, outer portions
•    The pain that occurs in the breasts may spread to one’s underarm
•    Breast pain or mastalgia is likely to affect younger women. Women who are postmenopausal may experience similar pain, especially if they are on HRT or hormone replacement therapy
•    The pain tends to become intense when the woman gets closer to her period. Sometimes, the pain may be experienced a couple of weeks before the menstruation is due

Signs and symptoms of a non-cyclical breast pain are:
•    Non-cyclical breast pain affects just one breast i.e. usually within a quadrant of the breast; though it may spread to other parts of the chest as well
•    The pain does not come and go like it does in cyclical breast pain
•    The pain may either be sporadic or continuous

Breast pain

When to see a Doctor for Breast Pain

Visit a doctor if you experience the following symptoms.
•    Change in the size or shape of both the breasts
•    Discharge from the nipple
•    Formation of rash around the nipple
•    Dimpling on the breasts’ skin
•    Swelling or lump in one of the armpits
•    Pain in the armpits or breasts that is not related to one’s menstrual cycles
•    Change in the appearance of nipple
•    Lump in the breast or an area of thickened tissue on the breast.

There could also be psychological causes for breast pain and the best judge of what is really causing it is the doctor.


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