When suffering from mastalgia, start by going for a full breast check up, which should include an examination by your doctor, possibly followed by an ultrasound or mammogram to detect any hidden problems. If there is no lump felt on breast exam or mass seen on mammogram, then the pain can be treated non-surgically. If there is a cyst seen on ultrasound in the area of pain or tenderness, the cyst fluid may be aspirated with a needle in the surgeon's office.
Breast pain can be cyclic or noncyclic. Cyclic mastalgia is breast pain that has a clear relationship to the menstrual cycle, and may indicate a hormonal imbalance. Mastalgia is often experienced as an early sign of menopause for women in their 40's. Breasts are made of glandular tissue, which swells with the accumulation of fluid when influenced by hormones. During pregnancy, this results in the manufacturing of milk. During other states of hormonal flux, the result can be pain.
Caffeine (coffee, teas and chocolate) causes increased swelling of breast tissue, as does a diet high in salt. There is evidence that fatty foods and diary products can contribute to breast pain.
The most common medications to blame are birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, and occasionally antidepressants and others. Stress is a major contributor to mastalgia due to the link between hormone secretion and our emotions.
Treatments include the use of topical applications, natural supplements or medication in more resistant cases. Reduce or avoid foods that worsen pain, while adding Vitamin E and evening primrose oil. Exercise and stress reduction may help. Topical applications of iodine or anti-inflammatory creams may be effective.
Breast cancer most commonly presents as a new lump or mass in the breast that you or your doctor can feel. A lump that is painless, hard, and has uneven edges is more likely to be cancer. But, any of these unusual changes in the breast can be a symptom of breast cancer:
- Swelling of all or part of the breast
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Breast pain
- Nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
- Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- A nipple discharge other than breast milk
- A lump in the underarm area
These changes also can be signs of less serious conditions that are not cancerous, such as an infection or a cyst. It's important to get any breast changes checked out promptly by a doctor.