The medical term for breast pain is mastalgia. Even though postmenopausal women can experience breast pain, mastalgia is more common in younger women. This is no doubt because this condition is frequently connected with the menstrual cycle. Breast pain can be mild to severe and rarely indicates cancer.
The Mayo Clinic identifies two types of breast pain and their characteristics. It can be cyclic or noncyclic with conditions as follows:
Cyclic Breast Pain
Clearly related to the menstrual cycle
Described as dull, heavy or aching
Often accompanied by breast swelling or lumpiness
Usually affects both breasts (upper/outer portions) and can radiate to the underarm
Intensifies during two weeks leading into period and eases up afterwards
Usually affects premenopausal women in 20s/30s and perimenopausal women in 40s
Noncyclic Breast Pain
Unrelated to the menstrual cycle
Described as tight, burning or sore
Constant or intermittent
Usually affects one breast, in a localized area, but may spread across breast
Usually affects postmenopausal women in their 40s and 50s
What Causes it?
There can be several “contributors” to breast pain even though doctors do not know the exact cause of breast pain. Cyclic pain is connected to hormonal changes that subside during pregnancy or at menopause. Sometimes, there can be anatomical factors, such as, breast cyst or trauma that causes pain. The pain felt in the breast may actually be pain stemming from an outside source like the chest wall, muscles or heart. Other contributors may be a fatty acid imbalance, certain medications and/or large breasts.
What Can You Do?
Before your thoughts run wild with the worst, take a breath and notice all of your symptoms. You may just answer your own questions regarding your pain. If you feel medical assistance is still needed, do not hesitate in making an appointment with your doctor. She will perform a number of tests to fully evaluate your condition.
Once any more serious danger is ruled out, your doctor might have any number of suggestions depending, of course, on the source of your pain.