I have always suffered from monthly ‘breast tenderness’ but like many women I was simply unaware that repeated breast pain or tenderness is a ‘real’ condition known medically as Mastalgia – it literally means ‘pain in the region of the breast’ and is divided into two types, Cyclical or Non-Cyclical.
Cyclical Mastalgia relates to the hormonal cycle and commonly occurs in the days prior to bleed or sometimes, around ovulation. Breasts feel heavy, swollen, tender and uncomfortable. Non-Cyclical Mastalgia is unrelated to the hormonal cycle and may affect one breast only where Cyclical Mastalgia usually affects both. Symptoms are similar but also include discomfort around the ribs.
If you suffer any discomfort that is not part of your normal monthly cycle, or are concerned about Non-Cyclical Mastalgia, you must consult your GP immediately.
Breast pain/tenderness, as part of your cycle, is often dismissed as a hormonal symptom of no real concern. However for many women, it can severely impact on their lifestyle. The discomfort can be so severe that you can’t run or exercise (I even find running upstairs painful), touch or intimacy is out of the question, sleeping on your front is impossible and usually results in wearing a bra to bed for support. Bra’s and tops don’t fit at this time and other symptoms are usually present such as feeling emotional/tearful for no reason. The discomfort lasts from a few days to up to 7 – 10 days at a time.
But this is more common than we think. According to the Maidstone Breast Clinic, between 50-70% of women suffer from breast pain at some point during their lifetime – see their website for more in-depth information.
So, what can you do about it? Firstly, it is always important to seek medical advice if you have concerns about your symptoms. Charting your discomfort frequencies and levels provides good evidence – use the Monthly Cycle Monitoring Chart to help monitor your symptoms.
Some evidence suggests that caffeine and fatty foods aggravate the condition – reducing or cutting these out of your diet may help to improve the problem but this is not always the case. Taking Evening Primrose Oil is often recommended but apparently needs to be taken for 4 months before any improvement is seen, however this does not work for everyone. Equally taking the Contraceptive Pill for some helps the problems and for others aggravates the problem. Hormone Replacement Therapy can also cause breast pain. There are some drugs that can be prescribed that may help but these of course must be discussed with your GP and are perhaps your last resort.
So it appears that this is a very individual issue, as of course, are hormones and our cycles which is perhaps why, we rarely discuss breast pain – however, there is a great deal of information available that you might find helpful rather than simply suffering every month or so. Please use the Monthly Cycle Monitoring Chart to monitor your symptoms, arrange to see your GP if you have concerns, read up on Breast Pain to become more informed. Such sites as the Maidstone Breast Clinic, Breast Cancer Care, London Breast Care Centre are all very informative.
Above all, please do not suffer in silence, ask for help, perhaps some of the advice available may alleviate your symptoms.