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Women's Health

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Breast Pain (Mastalgia) - Topic Overview

What do I need to know about breast pain?

Many women have breast tenderness and pain, also called mastalgia. It may come and go with monthly periods (cyclic) or may not follow any pattern (noncyclic).

  • Cyclic pain is the most common type of breast pain. It may be caused by the normal monthly changes in hormones. This pain usually occurs in both breasts. It is generally described as a heaviness or soreness that radiates to the armpit and arm. The pain is usually most severe before a menstrual period and is often relieved when a period ends. Cyclic breast pain occurs more often in younger women. Most cyclic pain goes away without treatment and usually disappears at menopause.
  • Noncyclic pain is most common in women 30 to 50 years of age. It may occur in only one breast. It is often described as a sharp, burning pain that occurs in one area of a breast. Occasionally, noncyclic pain may be caused by a fibroadenoma or a cyst. If the cause of noncyclic pain can be found, treating the cause may relieve the pain.

Breast pain can get worse with changes in your hormone levels or changes in the medicines you are taking. Stress can also affect breast pain. You are more likely to have breast pain before menopause than after menopause.

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From its first year of publication, GH has urged readers to live healthfully — to take "a walk before breakfast" (1885), "eat more fish" (1932), and get "at least eight hours of sleep" (1933). The tips here, whether from our early days or fresh from the latest journals, have one thing in common: They are based on the best expertise of their time.

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Does breast pain indicate breast cancer?

Breast pain is not a common symptom of breast cancer. But in some cases painful lumps are caused by breast cancer.

What can I do for breast pain?

You may be able to relieve breast pain by using nonprescription medicines. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

If breast pain becomes severe or lasts longer than 3 weeks, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms.

If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, talk to your doctor before using any medicine. Do not take aspirin if you are younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye syndrome.

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