Pain in the breast is not always a sign of breast cancer

Breasts are the mammary glands which are developed during puberty in females. More or less a lot of women complain of breast pain which is commonly called mastalgia. Generally, the pain in the breast is common through the reproductive years of a woman and even after menopause for some time. The severity, as well as the location of breast pain, can vary from one or both the arms or under the arms at times.

The cyclical or non-cyclical described feeling of pain can also vary from tenderness, tightening of the breast tissue, or sharp burning kind of a pain. The cyclical pain is associated with the pain of the menstrual cycle and it tends to subside after menstruation is over. Non-cyclical pain can have many reasons like the injury to the breast tissue or any surrounding tissues or muscles. This kind of pain is less common as compared to the cyclical pain and is at times difficult to diagnose too.

Pain in the Breast can be due to many reasons like:

  • Breast cysts- Involution is the term given to certain changes in the breast that occur with age in a woman due to the breast tissue being replaced by fat. Involution can lead to the development of cysts and are called fibrocystic changes of breast tissue seen mostly in the upper and outer portions of the breast. These changes can make the breast feel lumpy and cause increased tenderness. Breast cysts are not a matter of grave concern.
  • Hormonal changes- the fluctuations in the level of two major female hormones estrogen and progesterone can cause a woman’s breast to feel lumpy, swollen, and painful. This kind of a pain in the breasts can be identified as cyclic pain.
  • Non-cyclic pain- This kind of pain is not related to the menstrual cycle and can affect one or both breasts. Constant tightening, burning sensation, or soreness.
  • Medicines- There are certain medications that can lead to breast pain. Medications for the treatment of mental health, cardiovascular diseases, oral contraceptives, steroids, diuretics, etc.
  • Costochondritis- This is a condition commonly seen in women above the age of 40 years that causes the inflammation of the cartilage that joins the ribs and breastbone. It is associated with arthritis and not to the breast but it can cause burning pain, often confused with breast pain.
  • An ill-fitting bra- A bra which is too loose or too tight can compress the breasts, not giving them enough support leading to discomfort. One must check the fitting of a bra before purchasing it.
  • Mastitis- It is nothing but a painful infection of the breast which is seen commonly during breastfeeding. It is caused due to a clogged milk duct. The common symptoms like fever, body aches, swelling, redness, and tenderness in the breasts. It can be treated with some antibiotics.

Pain in the breasts can be managed by applying a hot or cold compress, limiting the intake of coffee, tea, chocolates, etc. Consuming a low-fat diet and increasing the consumption of dietary fruits, vegetables, grains, etc can reduce breast pain. Maintaining a healthy weight and regular intake of vitamins also helps in decreasing the breast pain.

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