A number of morphological and structural changes take place in the breasts throughout a woman's life. During the reproductive age, in the days before menstruation for example, or during the first trimester of pregnancy or during breast-feeding, it is common for women to report breast pain or mastalgia, associated with breast turgidity or tightness, increased size and sensitivity.
About 70% of women under 55 have suffered from breast pain at some point. Cyclic mastalgia or mastodynia is the most common, accounting for 60-70 % of cases.
Changes in hormone levels related to menstruation or pregnancy are usually the main triggers for mastodynia, as they produce increased sensitivity in the breasts, which is often accompanied by a certain degree of inflammation and pain.
Women with mastodynia suffer from disturbed sleep and often have a reduced quality of life.
Mastodynia can range from moderate to severe and is usually accompanied by breast tenderness, oedema, swelling, and a feeling of tightness in the breasts and nodularity.
Despite the fact that many women fear that breast pain may be associated with breast cancer, it is not usually a common symptom.
However, you should always go to the doctor for breast pain that does not go away, occurs in a specific area of the breast, seems to worsen over time, or interferes with daily activities.
Cyclical mastodynia: symptoms
The symptoms of cyclic mastodynia are as follows:
- The pain comes cyclically, like the menstrual cycle.
- The breasts may become tender.
- Patients describe the pain as severe and dull. Some women describe it as a heavy pain, while others say it is like a stabbing or burning pain.
- The breasts may swell.
- The breasts can become lumpy.
- Both breasts are usually affected.
- The pain can spread to the armpit.
- The pain becomes more intense a few days before the period starts. In some cases, pain can start a couple of weeks before menstruation.
- It is more likely to affect younger women. Postmenopausal women may experience similar pain if they receive HRT (hormone replacement therapy).
Non-cyclical mastodynia: symptoms
Noncyclical mastodynia refers to the following symptoms:
- It affects only one breast.
- It is common among postmenopausal women.
- The pain does not come and go during a menstrual cycle.
- The pain can be continuous or sporadic.
- Mastitis: If the pain is caused by a breast infection, the woman may have a fever, feel sick (unwell), have some swelling and tenderness in the breasts, and the painful area may feel warm. There may be redness. The pain is generally described as a burning sensation. For nursing mothers, the pain is more intense during breastfeeding.
Tips to prevent mastodynia
To prevent breast pain in the days before menstruation it is advisable to follow this advice:
- Follow a diet that is low in animal fats, salt and foods that promote fluid retention (salted meat, fried potatoes, olives, etc.) and consume more diuretic foods (asparagus, artichokes, etc.)
- Reduce the consumption of chocolate, coffee, tea and other stimulating drinks.
- Avoid tobacco and alcohol.
- Wear bras with good support.
- Do moderate exercise on a regular basis.
- Practice relaxation techniques (they can reduce anxiety and muscle tension)
- Get enough hours sleep and avoid stressful situations
- Perform gentle circular massages on the breasts with specific products, such as moisturising creams or emulsions, especially before going to sleep.