If you have occasional breast pain, you’re not alone — most women have it at some time in their life. But there are ways to help manage it — and some things you’re doing might be making it worse.
Breast pain, also called mastalgia, is classified as either cyclic or noncyclic.
Cyclic Breast Pain
Cyclic breast pain is related to your menstrual cycle, and it’s the most common type. It’s usually a dull, aching pain and it usually affects both breasts, especially the upper and outer part of your breasts. Your breasts may feel lumpier than usual, and they may even swell. Cyclic pain tends to get worse right before your period, then eases up afterward. It’s not fun, but it’s normal and not a sign of cancer or any other serious condition.
Noncyclic Breast Pain
Noncyclic breast pain is not related to your menstrual cycle. It’s usually only in one spot on one breast, and it’s more common after menopause. It’s often a tight, burning pain. If you have noncyclic breast pain, or if your breast pain interferes with your life, see your doctor.
Tips to Prevent or Ease Breast Pain
If your breast pain is clearly cyclic, or if you’ve already seen your doctor and ruled out a serious condition, here are eight ways to help manage the pain or to keep from making it worse:
- Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet. A high-fat diet can make breast pain worse — and there’s evidence it could actually increase your risk for breast cancer. Besides, we already know that eating right can help you feel better and live longer.
- Limit caffeine. Though it’s not conclusive, some studies have shown that women have less breast pain when they skip caffeine or reduce the amount they consume.
- Increase vitamin B6 and vitamin E. Both vitamins have been shown to help reduce breast pain. Vitamin E also protects your breasts from free radical damage that can destroy cells.
- Try evening primrose oil. It’s an excellent source of essential fatty acids, and fatty acid imbalance has been linked to breast pain. In fact, evening primrose oil is sometimes used to treat endometriosis and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- Make sure your bra fits properly. One of the most common causes of noncyclic breast pain is a poorly fitted bra. Try your bra on at the store, and get help from an experienced salesperson. Make sure the bra you choose is supportive and comfortable, and if you’re working out or playing sports, wear a good-quality sports bra.
- Schedule your mammogram the week after your period. Before or during your period, your breasts may be more sensitive.
- Limit sodium (salt) intake. Salt can cause fluid retention, which has been linked to breast pain.
- Maintain a good relationship with your healthcare team. Tell them about any pain or changes you can see or feel in your breasts. Make sure you’re comfortable talking to them and that they have the technology and expertise you need. Your primary care doctor, gynecologist and radiologist can help you manage breast pain, preserve your health and even save your life. But they can’t do it alone. The most important team member is you.