Managing and taking care of your breasts is one of the basic requirements as a woman. Being aware of concerning symptoms is also a necessity.
Breast pain often referred to as mastalgia, is a common concern amongst many women. However, only during a few instances do women need to consult with a physician, and these are highlighted in the following article.
How does mastalgia present itself?
Pain sensation differs from woman to woman. In some, a sharp shooting pain is noted, while in others it’s more of a burning and constant pain. There are two broad classes of pain that have been described.
- Cyclic Pain
This pain, as the name indicates, follows a cyclic manner and is more commonly noted during the surges of hormones during your menstrual cycles. The pain is noted often in both the breasts and is more of a soreness that in some cases, can radiate to the armpits. It peaks a week or so before a womanâ€™s period and reduces after menses.Since the pain is noted to go away on its own, it is not a medical emergency. Women can opt for mild painkillers like acetaminophen if the pain is persistent. This type of pain is not normally noted in menopausal women.
- Cyclic Pain
- Noncyclic Pain
This pain is found to be persistent and is usually not associated with menstrual cycles. The cause for this is often unclear until a doctor examines you and asks relevant medical history. In some cases, more than within the breast tissue the pain originates within the muscles and tissues surrounding the breast. Unlike cyclical pain, often only one breast is where the pain originates from.There are many situations under which mastalgia can occur. Previous or recent injury to the breast, surgery, benign lesion within the breast or inflammation within the breast. Stress and poor lifestyle choices are also known to cause pain in the breast. While women of any age can be affected, postmenopausal women are the most likely demographic indicated for this kind of mastalgia.
There are a few other situations, women have to take into consideration when evaluating pain in their breasts.
1) Mastalgia during pregnancy:
During this wonderful phase in a woman’s life, her body is going through plenty of changes. As for her breasts, they start to increase in size as well start feeling tender. Women also note that their nipples start tingling and begin to feel sore. While all these changes can be overwhelming, they are due to the hormonal surges, occurring constantly throughout her pregnancy. The tenderness usually subsides after the first trimester.
2) Pain not originating within the breast:
This is often medically referred to as “extra – mammary” pain. In situations such as these, women feel as though the pain is originating from the breast, however, it could be from the surrounding tissue or the pain is originating from somewhere else that is affecting the region around the breast. Since there are many organs in close proximity to the breast like the gall bladder, heart, pancreas and liver, anything that affects any one of these, could cause pain to radiate to the breasts. In some cases, the pain can radiate all the way to the neck or arm.
Is Pain A Symptom Of Breast Cancer?
Rarely do pain and breast cancer goes hand in hand. A very small percentage of women who present with breast pain is ever diagnosed with breast cancer. In these situations also; it is due to increase in the size of the cancerous tissue or spread to surrounding tissue and organs, that causes the pain. In most cases, breast cancer is identified earlier on, with proper screening techniques.
When Should I Visit My Gynecologist?
Most pain can be tackled at home. Mild painkillers are known to provide relief in most cases. Attempting to eliminate stress related situations, reduces pain, not only in the breast. Most physicians advocate opting for a healthy diet and moderate exercise, to help tackle most pain symptoms. Reducing caffeine and nicotine are also beneficial for many women. These are simple techniques opted for when the pain has no underlying cause.
Some women on contraceptive pills might also complain of mastalgia. Addressing this with your gynecologist will ideally get you a change in the prescription that is more suited to you. At the other end of the spectrum, women on hormone replacement therapy during menopause might also experience pain due to their medications. A change in the dosage should be able to assist with the pain symptoms.
When pain persists beyond a couple of weeks and is constant it is vital to consult a physician. A woman who notes that the pain originates from a particular area in the breast and has increased in severity should receive medical attention. Associated symptoms of indigestion, shortness of breath or radiation of the pain, all call for an immediate consultation.
Staying fine tuned to your body ultimately helps you watch out for warning signs. Being a woman shouldn’t be a struggle, embrace your body and its changes. Take action early so as to avoid unprecedented situations.
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