What Does Breast Pain Feel Like?
Breast pain may range from mild to severe in intensity, and from an overall ache to a sharp or tingling pain. The breasts may feel full or heavy, and it may be uncomfortable to sleep on your stomach or wear a bra. Tenderness, swelling and lumpiness may come and go with the menstrual cycle. These symptoms are usually felt strongest just before menstruation and improve during or immediately after the cycle
Why Do Women Have Breast Pain?
As many as 50% to 70% of women experience breast pain. The most common complaints are premenstrual breast discomfort and lumpy breasts. These are often related to fibrocystic tissue in the breast. This does not increase your risk for developing breast cancer and no treatment is required.
Breasts are affected by changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle and sometimes during emotional stress. Changes in estrogen and progesterone levels can cause the breasts to feel more lumpy, painful and/or swollen. Lumpiness and/or pain increases in many women as they get older. This may be because women become more sensitive to normal female hormones as they age.
Breast pain may also be caused by cysts, or small pockets of fluid in the breast. Cysts can usually be seen on a mammogram or ultrasound. Most women with lumpy or painful breasts do not have cysts. Their mammograms and ultrasound examinations are usually normal.
What Can Be Done About Breast Pain?
Some women find that making certain lifestyle changes can relieve breast pain. Here are some tips:
- Wear a supportive bra, such as a sports bra, 24 hours a day, or when the breasts are most sensitive. This may relieve pain caused by movement of your breasts. Change to a larger bra size if you have breast swelling.
- Heat, such as from a heating pad, warm compress or a bath can provide relief. For some women, using an icepack or cold compress may help.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables and follow a low-fat diet.
- Reduce the amount of salt you eat, and drink 8 to 10 glasses of caffeine-free fluids a day. This may reduce swelling in your breasts.
- One of the best ways to relieve breast pain is to reduce or eliminate caffeine from your diet (see chart). Eliminate caffeine from the diet for at least 3 to 4 months to see if pain improves.
- Take daily calcium (1,000mg to 1,500mg) and vitamin E (800 I.U.) supplements.
- Take aspirin or Tylenol™.
- Try stress-relieving measures such as regular physical exercise, relaxation techniques and massage.
There is no proven remedy for cyclical breast discomfort. However, the good news is that it is not a sign of breast cancer and usually disappears when menopause begins.
Breast pain that occurs in one particular area and does not change throughout the month can be a danger sign and should not be ignored. Check with your doctor to see if a complete breast examination and mammogram are necessary.
Average Caffeine content of common foods, beverages and medications
|Barqs Root Beer||22|
|Dr. Pepper reg/diet||42|
|Mug Root Beer||0|
|Pepsi (sugar free)||36|
|Chocolate, cocoa, carob||mg/oz|
|Cocoa mix drink||1|
Adapted from Levy M, Management of Painful Breasts, Breast Diseases, 1988; 1:65-69
Love S, Lumpy Breasts, The Medical Forum, Nov 1984, PP 3-5
McGinn A, Keeping Abreast, Bull Publishing, 1987
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