Breast pain, medically termed as cyclic mastalgia is a common complaint experienced by many women before menstruation. Particularly, young women of reproductive age suffer from pain and tenderness of breasts before the onset of periods. The pain normally starts four to five days prior to the monthly cycle, but in few cases the discomfort is experienced right from the ovulation period. The pain is usually felt in both the breasts and more in the upper quadrant portion and rarely around the nipples. The pain subsides soon after menstruation and may persist for few months to years. The incidence of cyclical mastalgia is very rare in post menopausal women. Cyclic Mastalgia is not an indicator of breast cancer as breast pain is rarely a first symptom of this cancer.
The exact cause of the mastalgia is not known, however the condition is linked to the hormonal imbalance. The fluctuation in the level of two important hormones progesterone and estrogen before the periods can lead to cyclic mastalgia. Increased level of estrogen in comparison with progesterone levels during the second half of the month is believed to cause cyclical mastalgia. Women, who take oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy during menopause, may be affected by cyclic breast pain. As hormones play a major role in cyclic mastalgia, the condition is also known as hormonal breast soreness. However cyclical mastalgia cannot be totally attributed to hormonal imbalance. The monthly fluid retention swells up the breasts causing pain and tenderness. Low androgen levels, and high prolactin levels also result in cyclic mastalgia. It is also interesting to note that, the severity of the mastalgia increases with the stress related issues and wrong choice of diet.
Managing cyclical mastalgia
Cyclic mastalgia is not a disease and hence does not require any treatment as such. Yet if the pain is persistent, see your gynecologist to rule out other breast related conditions. Your doctor will first assess if the pain is cyclic or non cyclic (not related to monthly cycles). Non cyclic mastalgia occurs due to trauma, breast infection or sometimes it is associated with the chest wall. Once it is confirmed that the mastalgia is cyclic, doctor may merely reassure, counsel and educate you on how to manage the condition. If the pain is severe and disrupting normal life, doctor prescribes some medication such as Tamoxifen, Danazol and Bromocriptine. You may also be given Anti inflammatory gel which is quite effective in alleviating the pain.
There are few natural remedies available for cyclic mastalgia. Following are some of the methods which can be followed at home to manage the mastalgia effectively.
1. Wear a correct fitting bra to provide right support.
2. Avoid caffeine products as caffeine contains a substance called methyxanthine which allows blood vessels to dilate. The dilated blood vessels cause swelling that results in breast soreness.
3. Restrict salt intake as excess salt in the body leads to water retention making the breasts heavy and painful.
4. Following a low fat diet and also a diet that is free of sugars will provide relief to certain extent.
5. Popping in a capsule of evening primrose oil at least for 3 to 4 months is known to give good results. Though, this method has been followed since many years, it is advisable to consult your doctor before starting the course.
6. Taking vitamin E supplements has also been shown to help with breast discomfort.
Bibliography / Reference
Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: January 16, 2019