Breast pain is any pain or discomfort felt in the breast. It is a common complaint among women. The pain may include tightness in the breast, sharp burning pain or breast tenderness in the breast tissues. Pain may vary depending on the cause, which can range from mild to severe. Moreover, the pain can occur infrequently or regularly and last for a few hours to several days. Breast pain is commonly associated with menstrual cycle. Women who have pain in one or both breasts sometimes fear that is may be a symptom for breast cancer, however, it is not typically an associated symptom of cancer. Breast pain is also known as mastalgia, mammalgia and mastodynia.
Types of Breast Pain
There are two different types of breast pain, differentiating in their occurrence along menstrual cycle. Their signs and symptoms slightly differ
- Cyclic breast pain: pain is cyclic in relation to menstrual cycle
- Usually affects both breasts, especially in the upper, outer areas
- Tender breasts
- Heavy, dull ache or soreness
- Swollen breasts
- Pain may spread to the arm
- Pain intensifies a few days before the period
- More common among younger women
- Non-cyclic breast pain: pain may occur anytime, usually sporadic or continuous, unrelated to menstrual cycle
- Usually affecting a single breast, especially within a quadrant of the breast
- Pain may spread to the chest
- In some cases, fever, breast swelling and tenderness
- More common among post-menopausal women
Causes of Breast Pain
Breast pain is commonly caused by hormone changes in the body. The following may lead to pain or discomfort in the breasts for women:
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Pregnancy, especially during the first trimester
- Puberty (both boys and girls)
- Fibrocystic breast changes
- Certain medications such as diuretics, birth control pills, etc.
- Certain drinks, such as alcohol and caffeine
- Breast cysts
- Breast trauma
- Breast surgery
First Aid Management for Breast Pain
In most cases, breast pain will resolve on its own, even with home care. The following tips are generally recommended to give first aid to a painful breast:
- Identify the underlying cause or the provoking factor. Once it is identifies, eliminate. Or if this is not possible, try to cut down on the cause.
- Apply a topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication to the affected area. One may also opt to take over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen and paracetamol.
- Apply hot or cold compresses on the breast.
- Wear the proper sized bra. When exercising, use a sports bra.
- Follow a low-fat diet that may help reduce breast pain.
Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice or treatment. The information given should not be used for self-diagnosis of the possible underlying medical conditions. Seek medical attention when necessary. A keen eye for symptoms is necessary in all medical situations. To learn more about breast pain and other body pains, enrol in First Aid Courses with workplace approved training.