Mastalgia is breast pain. There are two types of mastalgia: cyclic and noncyclic. Cyclical breast pain is most often associated with menstrual periods. Noncyclical breast pain is not related to the menstrual cycle.
Mastalgia can be caused by:
- Hormonal changes associated with the menstrual cycle
- Trauma to the breast
in the chest cavity and neck
- Stretching of breast ligaments
- Pressure from a bra
- Hidradenitis supportiva
- Medicines (eg, hormone medicines, antidepressants, heart medicines)
Risk factors include:
- Having a history of breast surgery
- Having a history of arthritis
- Having an irritation of cervical (neck) nerve roots
- Having large breasts
Cervical Nerve Roots
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Symptoms of mastalgia may include pain in the breast area. Pain may be mild or severe.
It may occur in both breasts or just one. It may be painful only in one spot or all over the breast.
Call your doctor right away if you have any signs of infection, such as redness, tenderness, fever, or chills.
Call your doctor if you notice any other changes in your breasts, such as:
- Change in the size or shape of your breast
- Discharge from your nipple
- New lumps or masses felt in the breast
- Other changes to the skin on your breasts, such as crusting, dimpling, or puckering
Call your doctor if your breast pain persists, interferes with your daily routine, or is in one specific area of your breast.
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
The diagnosis is most often done with history of pain and physical exam.
Your doctor may
order further testing
look for any suspicious changes.
These tests may include:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. If an underlying cause is found, treatment will be based on that (eg, antibiotics for an infection). General treatment options include:
Topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) may reduce the pain associated with mastalgia.
and other prescription medicines may be prescribed to help reduce cyclical mastalgia.
If you are taking hormones (eg, estrogen, progesterone), your doctor may make changes to your medicines to reduce pain.
Your doctor may suggest some changes depending on the cause of your breast pain. These might include:
- Wearing a properly fitting bra that has good support
- Avoiding caffeine
- Eating a low-fat diet
- Using a hot or cold compress
The best way to prevent mastalgia is to avoid trauma to the breast. Wearing a sports bra when exercising can also prevent breast pain and tenderness.
Last reviewed October 2012 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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