Pain in the breast area, their hypersensitivity or painful tension can be a sign of a serious disease or simply a hormonal disbalance. Based on that, we can divide breast pain into dependent on menstrual cycle – mastodynia and independent – mastalgia. Pain dependent on the cycle are the most commonly occurring, usually before the start of menstruation. Their frequency increases with age up until menopause. Pain independent on the cycle can be linked to a range of diseases, related not only to breasts, but to ribs and spine or even heart as well. Proper diagnostics and following appropriate treatment is necessary with any breast pain.
A breast is a pair organ located on the front part of the chest, comprised of a mammary gland, fatty tissue and ligaments. The mammary gland consists of lobules and ducts with run together into a single main duct which ends on the nipple. The nipple is surrounded by a rim of darker skin known as an areola. The mammary gland undergoes hormonal changes related to the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is influenced by female sex hormones, estrogen and progesteron.
Hormonally dependent breast pain
Hormonally dependent or cyclical breast pain appear most commonly in young women before menstruation. They can however persist for the entirety of the menstrual cycle in greater or smaller intensity. The occurrence of breast pain increases with age and lasts until menopause. This is because young women have more tissue and less fat in their breasts than in more advanced age. They tend to be firmer and nodular. Sometimes tiny cysts can develop in breasts, little cavities filled with fluid, or fibrous areas, which are sensitive before menstruation and increase their size. This is known as a fibrocystic breast disease and changes during the menstrual cycle. Greater issues can be cause by a lack of female sex hormone, progesteron. On the other hand, a surplus of estrogen causes water retention in the organism, leading to pain and tension in breasts. An increased level of the prolactin hormone is also a possibility, as well as thyroid issues or a lack of vitamins, especially vitamin E, B1 or B6. The pain occurs in both breasts, although in can be more pronounced in one of them. Other possible cause of breast pain may be incorrect contraceptives or repeated cycle shifting using contraceptives. Correct type and usage of contraceptives can often relieve these issues, however.
Hormonally independent breast pain
Acyclical breast pain is not tied to hormonal changes. It usually occurs in women after the 40th year of age is related to structural changes in breasts, usually fibrocystical changes. The pain can be felt on only one side. It can also be caused by spinal issues, injuries, pleuritis, intercostal neuritis or a painful insertion of costal cartilage. Other possible cause of breast pain is a breast inflammation. This manifests by a reddening and swelling of the breast, occasionally with a purulent discharge from the nipple. Increased temperature, tiredness and overall weakness are also present. This usually occurs in breastfeeding women. Breast pain during breastfeeding can also be caused by a blockage of the milk duct or fissures and injuries on the nipple. The most serious disease accompanied by breast pain is a malignant tumor. It manifests as a palpable shape in the breast, by a change of the breasts shape, size or color, changes of the nipple, such as its retraction, deformation, other symptoms are also a non-healing ulcer or discharge and swelling of lymph nodes in the armpits and around the clavicle.
Diagnostics of breast pain
Proper diagnostics are required for treating breast pain. Any possible ties to the menstrual cycle are important. Blood is examined for levels of hormones, progesteron, estrogen and prolactin. A mammography or sonography is required to rule out a malignant tumor of the mammary gland. A mammography is an x-ray examination, made by a device called a mammograph. Mammography is used to discover any changes withing the breast and has great importance in fighting breast cancer, since it can be used to discover cancer at its earliest stage. It is performed on women aged 45-69 and is paid for by insurance once every 2 years. Ultrasound exam or sonography is done with younger women for whom mammography is not recommended, since they have a larger ratio of ligaments and glands than fatty tissue in their breasts, which would make the x-ray examination imprecise. If you suffer from breast pain, it is advisable to visit your doctor as soon as possible and not to underestimate these issues.
Treatment of breast pain
Most women with cyclical breast pains doesn't require any treatment, or possibly herbal remedies, vitamins and avoiding coffee and caffeinated drinks is recommended. Wearing a suitable bra, which fits without being limiting or uncomfortable, is recommended as well. Drugs containing paracetamol or acetylsalycilates or non-steroid antiphlogistics can help against the pain.