Breast pain ( mastalgia) is one of the commonest issues in women of all ages. It can happen to anyone and at any age. It may or may not be associated with breast tenderness: mastodynia ( pain on touching or palpating the breast).
Both these terms (mastalgia and mastodynia) are different, but they address the same problem. Breast pain may or may not be associated with a lump as well. It is important to note that breast pain is not commonly associated with breast cancer.
If you have breast pain, a complete history and a thorough clinical examination are important in diagnosing the cause and prescribing the correct treatment.
Your doctor may want to know many details, which you may feel awkward or unnecessary, but these are important nonetheless. Breast pain is commonly seen in women aged 20-40 years, but as I stated before, no age is exempt. The pain may be cyclical, ( waxing and waning in relation to the menstrual cycle) or non cyclical. There may also be associated tenderness and heaviness, especially with cyclical mastalgia. You may be asked to maintain a breast pain diary, to record the intensity of the pain, your levels of stress and your periods. This diary helps in analysing the pain better. Apart from this, a mammogram and ultrasound of the breast may also be advised as part of the evaluation.
The most important bit: treatment of breast pain is entirely released to understanding the cause of the pain.
Most women will have normal examination and mammogram findings. In such women, breast pain is commonly attributed to these causes:
- Ill fitting bras
- Inadequate water intake
- Essential fatty acid deficiency
Important fact: breasts have a lot of sensory nerve endings, hence they respond to stress…
Stress often triggers and worsens breast pain.
Stress is the most common underlying factor in most women complaining of breast pain.
Meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga are very helpful in this regard.
Ill fitting bras are something a lot of women tend to neglect.
A well fitting bra or a sports bra will often give dramatic relief.
Plenty of oral fluids are recommended, as we do not realise our dehydrated status because of working in closed environments.
Some women also benefit from intake of evening primrose oil, which contains Gamma linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid.
Most women with breast pain do not have cancer. But, a thorough evaluation is required to rule out the possibly.
Most often, reassurance, a few lifestyle changes and very rarely medicines are all that are required to treat the niggling problem.
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