Breast pain or mastalgia is common among women. While it does not usually indicate a severe medical condition, this pain can be concerning when it is very severe or ongoing. Painful breasts are not a symptom of breast cancer, but painful lumps in the breasts are. It can be easy to confuse the two and assume you may have a lump if you have pain in your breasts.
The Two Types of Mastalgia
There are two types of mastalgia: cyclic and non-cyclic.
- Cyclic mastalgia is caused by the monthly hormonal changes females experience. The pain occurs in both breasts and is described as heaviness or soreness. It radiates to the armpit and down to the arm. It is generally the most severe during a menstrual period and often goes away once the period ends. This form of mastalgia is most common with younger women and will usually go away without treatment. It typically disappears once menopause begins.
- Noncyclic breast pain is common in women between the ages of 30 and 50. This pain may only be present in one breast and is often described as a burning or sharp pain in one area of the breast. Sometimes noncyclic pain can be caused by a cyst or fibroadenoma. If a doctor can locate the main cause of noncyclic pain, it may be treatable.
Is Birth Control Causing My Breast Pain?
Several factors can cause breast pain or make it worse. Certain medications and stress can affect your breast pain. Changes in hormone levels, such as menopause or the side effects of birth control, can also contribute to the problem.
Breast pain and tenderness are both common side effects of hormonal birth control. Those who are taking combination pills that contain both estrogen and progestin, instead of only progestin, are more likely to have side effects that include breast pain.
Estrogen and progesterone naturally contribute to breast pain during a woman's menstrual cycle. That is why many women notice their breasts are tender right before their period begins. Birth control alters or increases these hormones, so some women will experience even more breast pain and discomfort. Alternatively, some women find that the combination of hormones helps to decrease their breast pain and tenderness. If you experience more pain while taking contraceptives and the problem persists or is too painful, it may be best to switch to aprogestin-only birth control pill.
How to Treat Mild Breast Pain
Some women experience mild to moderate cyclic breast pain every month. While this pain goes away on its own, it can be challenging to deal with at times. Here are a few suggestions on how to ease the tenderness while experiencing cyclic breast pain.
- Apply heat or ice to your breasts for a few minutes each day to help alleviate the pain.
- Limit your salt intake. Excessive salt can cause your body to retain too much water. When the body holds in extra fluid, the tissue of the breast will as well, and that can cause your pain and tenderness to increase.
- Wear a sports bra or other bra that is supportive.
- Take an over-the-counter NSAID such as ibuprofen for pain.
If you have questions or concerns about breast pain, the professionals at BASS Medical Group are here to assist you. Get in touch with us today to schedule an appointment. We can help you learn more about what’s causing your pain and how to treat it.