What Does My Breast Pain Mean?

Mastalgia, known simply as breast pain, isn’t uncommon. But, if you aren’t aware of your own body’s norms and what breast pain can mean, it can be scary to experience. First and foremost, if you have breast pain or are concerned, speak with your doctor. Then you can become familiar with the causes of pain and what you should keep an eye on.

The differences between normal and abnormal breast pain

Note: Each woman is unique and will have different definitions of normal when it comes to their health.

There are two types of breast pain, known as cyclical and non-cyclical. Pain associated with your menstrual cycle is cyclical, while all other breast pain is non-cyclical. If your pain isn’t cyclical, it could be caused by injury, among other sources.

Normal breast pain can come from the following causes.

  • Menstruation
  • Pregnancy
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Menopause
  • Puberty
  • Breastfeeding
  • Fibrocystic breast changes – This condition must be diagnosed by a physician and is associated with lumps or cysts in the breast tissue.
  • Diet and lifestyle factors like drinking or smoking
  • Incorrect bra sizing
  • Certain medications
  • Surgeries

Abnormal breast pain can be caused by a number of conditions, including some of the above. The key to knowing the difference is to pay attention to associated symptoms before and after speaking with a doctor.

  • Pain associated with nipple discharge
  • Sudden onset of pain
  • Constant pain
  • Debilitating pain
  • Thickening of the skin or change in texture
  • Changes in breast size

You could be experiencing hormone fluctuations

Cyclical pain (breast pain during the menstrual cycle) is caused by fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels. May women report that the pain worsens as they age and others say that the pain subsides once they enter menopause. Cyclical pain typically occurs two or three days before a period and can last the entire time. If you think your breast pain could be caused by regular hormone changes, keep a log for two or three cycles and bring it to your doctor.

You may have cysts

Another condition that is typical for women as they age is involution. This refers to the process of normal breast tissues being replaced by fatty tissues. It can result in the build-up of fibrous tissue and cysts. Fibrocystic breast tissues won’t always cause pain, but it is common. The pain usually occurs around your menstrual cycle, when the breasts and cysts enlarge and result in tenderness.

If you are breastfeeding, you can experience pain

Breastfeeding is a natural way to make sure your baby gets the nutrients he or she needs to grow. But, there are some associated conditions that can cause pain.

Mastitis: This is an infection of the milk ducts that causes intense pain as well as cracking, itching, burning, or blistering of the nipples. If the infection worsens, you may see red lines on your breasts and have fever or chills.

Improper latching: This happens if your baby isn’t latching onto you correctly. You may also experience cracking and tenderness of the nipples with this condition.

Engorgement: If you let your breast milk builds up for too long, you may experience engorgement. Your breasts will appear larger and your skin will feel tight. You can solve the issue by feeding your baby, expressing the milk manually, or pumping.

Other causes of breast pain

There are many other causes of breast pain that women should be aware of. Some are easier to take care of than others, like lifestyle choices. Be sure to speak with your doctor if you have any questions about your breast pain.

  • Extramammary (non-breast) concerns: Sometimes the pain you feel in your breasts can be caused by issues in your arms, back muscles, or chest. Certain activities like skiing, rowing, or raking leaves can cause this.
  • Diet: Something as simple as a diet change can help reduce your breast pain. Women who consume foods high in fats and refined carbs tend to experience more pain than those who do not.
  • Smoking: This is a bad habit for many reasons. It is known to relate to a rise in epinephrine levels in breast tissue, which can result in pain.
  • Medications: There are some medications that come with the side effect of breast pain. These include antibiotics, hormone therapy, antidepressants, and heart disease medications.

Is breast pain linked to cancer?

The short answer to this question is not directly. Although pain can be a symptom of breast cancer, it isn’t always the first indicator. Also, having fibrocystic breasts does not put you at higher risk for this terrible disease. If you are experiencing constant pain in an area that is lumpy and it does not go away, contact your doctor. They can conduct testing to determine if that pain is related to cancer.

When to see a doctor

If you are concerned about your breast pain, speak with your doctor. This issue doesn’t always mean something is wrong, but it can give you peace of mind. Also, in the case that you DO have a health condition, it is best to catch it as early as possible.

The physicians and staff here at Women’s Healthcare Associates are here for you. Our goal is to provide the most thorough and highest quality care for women of all ages. You can call us at (806) 355-6330 to set up an appointment and learn more about our services.

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Women’s Healthcare Associates

1301 S Coulter St # 300
Amarillo, TX 79106

Phone: (806) 355-6330

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© Women'Healthcare Associates 2017 - All rights reserved
Website design and marketing by UCI Digital