Breast pain can be described as a sharp, burning or dull ache. It can affect one or both breasts, and can be intermittent or constant. Some women describe it as a fullness of the breast.
There are two main types of breast pain:
1. Cyclical – This is very common and affects most women. This type of breast discomfort peaks about 8-10 days prior to menses and dissipates or largely resolves after the period. It occurs as a cycle generally every month. It tends to affect the upper outer aspects of the breasts.
The exact cause of this pain is unknown but it may be due to hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle. It may be related to underlying benign breast change such as cysts.
2. Non cyclical – This pain does not follow the menstrual cycle. This may be “referred” pain from underlying chest muscles, ribs, or even other organs such as the stomach, or heart.
Your Breast Assessment
We recommend that you should seek medical advice from your GP, or Breast Specialist if you experience continued long lasting breast pain, discomfort or non-cyclical pain. A Pain Chart is helpful in tracking breast pain with the menstrual cycle. Even simple diary entries or tracking apps can help work out whether the pain is cyclical.
Your breast assessment at the clinic will include a thorough history, clinical examination with imaging (breast ultrasound and mammogram). A biopsy may be recommended in some cases.
The treatment of breast pain is generally supportive including the use of supportive bras (helps reduce breast movement), simple analgesia (Panadol +/- Ibuprofen), reducing caffeine intake, smoking cessation and the use of evening primrose oil. About 50% of women feel some relief with the use of evening primrose oil.
Other not so commonly used treatment modalities include the oral contraceptive pill.