Breast pain (mastalgia) can occur in anyone with breast tissue -- including men! Women may start experiencing breast pain at puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and even during menopause. Whether you have pain in both breasts or in one breast, there's no need to panic -- breast cancer seldom causes breast pain. Hormonal changes, weight gain, or benign anatomical changes within the breast may cause pain. Learn what type of pain you have and then use the right treatment to get relief.
If swelling is causing pain, try a support or sports bra. Lose weight if you can, to take the load off your back and breasts. Eat a healthy diet and take your vitamins. Alternate hot and cold packs when pain peaks and won’t fade away. Take ibuprofen or aspirin, but swallow those with a non-caffeinated drink. Ask your doctor if you can take evening primrose oil or black cohosh. Lower your stress levels.
Home Treatments for Non-cyclical Breast Pain
For bruises or surgical scars, try hot or cold packs, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin. If cysts or fibroadenomas seem to be the problem, ask your doctor whether you could take some evening primrose oil or vitamin E. Call your doctor if your nipples are infected or leaking and ask about antibiotics or other prescription medications. Got stress? Try a hot soak in the tub with lavender oil.
Professional Help For Pain Beneath BreastsJust beneath your breasts are your chest wall muscles, rib cage, spine, heart and lungs. Aches and pains can come from inflammation of chest wall cartilage, arthritis in the breastbone, and bronchitis. Muscles in your back and chest may be strained and pull against bones, sometimes causing soreness or sharp pains. When these pains happen close to your breasts, it can be very hard to pinpoint their location. Try taking acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin for the pain, and if it does not respond, then call your doctor for a breast pain appointment. You may need antibiotics or further testing to diagnose and treat the cause of your pain.
When breast cancer does cause pain, it is rare. Most breast tumors themselves don’t create pain, but some of the treatments -– surgery, drugs, and radiation –- may cause pain. Be sure to let your doctor and nurses know when you have treatment-related pain, as this can be relieved so that you can continue to receive your cancer treatments.
In metastatic breast cancer, pain may be caused by cancer cells in bones, nerves, or organs. This can be relieved by targeted radiation. Your oncologist can prescribe a variety of drugs to help with metastatic cancer pain. Holistic therapies, such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, meditation, and guided imagery, may help alleviate pain also, without creating unwanted side effects.
No matter what kind of pain you’re having, discuss it with your health care team and get help. You don't always have to suffer!
Breast Pain; Pp. 77-85. Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book. Susan M. Love, M.D. Fifth Edition, 2010.