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Your Health

Mastalgia

(Breast Pain)

Definition

Mastalgia is breast pain. There are two types of mastalgia: cyclic and noncyclic. Cyclical breast pain is most often associated with menstrual periods. Noncyclical breast pain is not related to the menstrual cycle.

Causes

Mastalgia can be caused by:
  • Hormonal changes associated with the menstrual cycle
  • Pregnancy
  • Trauma to the breast
  • Mastitis
  • Thrombophlebitis
  • Stretching of breast ligaments
  • Pressure from a bra
  • Hidradenitis suppurativa
  • Certain medications, such as hormone medications, antidepressants, or certain heart medications

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of having mastalgia may include:
  • Having a history of breast surgery or breast injury
  • Having large breasts

Symptoms

Symptoms of mastalgia may include pain in the breast area. Pain may be mild or severe. It may occur in both breasts or just one. It may be painful only in one spot or all over the breast.

When Should I Call My Doctor?

Call your doctor right away if you have any signs of infection, such as redness, tenderness, fever, or chills.
Call your doctor if you notice any other changes in your breasts, such as:
  • Change in the size or shape of your breast
  • Discharge from your nipple
  • New lumps or masses felt in the breast
  • Other changes to the skin on your breasts, such as crusting, dimpling, or puckering
Call your doctor if your breast pain persists, interferes with your daily routine, or is in one specific area of your breast.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis is most often done with history of pain.
Your doctor may order further testing to look for any suspicious changes. These tests may include:

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment may be based on what is causing your breast pain. General treatment options include:

Medications

Topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) may reduce the pain associated with mastalgia. Other medications may be prescribed to help reduce cyclical mastalgia.
If you are taking hormones, such as estrogen or progesterone, your doctor may make changes to your medications to reduce pain.

Other Treatments

Your doctor may suggest some changes depending on the cause of your breast pain. These might include:
  • Wearing a properly fitting bra that has good support
  • Avoiding caffeine
  • Eating a low-fat diet
  • Using a hot or cold compress

Prevention

There are no current guidelines to prevent mastalgia.

RESOURCES

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org

Office on Women's Health http://www.womenshealth.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Women's Health Network http://www.cwhn.ca

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada http://www.sogc.org

References

Mastalgia. DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated August 1, 2012. Accessed July 22, 2013.

Mastalgia (breast pain). The Ohio State University Medical Center website. Available at: http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare%5Fservices/breast%5Fhealth/common%5Fbreast%5Fconditions/mastalgia/Pages/index.aspx. Accessed July 22, 2013.

Morrow M. The evaluation of common breast problems. Am Fam Physician. 2000;61(8):2371-2378.

Rosolowich V, Saettler E, et al. Mastalgia. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2006;28(1):49-71.

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