Home Symptoms Breast pain (Mastodynia): causes, tips

Breast pain (Mastodynia): causes, tips

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 296 views

Breast pain can be accompanied by tenderness, palpable hardening, and tenderness of the breast to the touch. Almost every woman knows these symptoms because they usually appear shortly before the menstrual period. Physicians refer to cycle-dependent breast pain or nipple pain as mastodynia. In addition, there are some, mostly benign, changes in the breast tissue that cause symptoms (med. mastalgia ) independent of the menstrual cycle. In any case, you should have the symptoms clarified by a doctor.

Breast pain: description

The breasts are considered a symbol of femininity. They are erogenous zones and count among the secondary sex characteristics. In addition, the breasts in women are used for breastfeeding. If one or both breasts hurt, every touch is uncomfortable, the breast may feel lumpy, and many women are concerned. Breast pain can occur in one or both breasts.

Breast or nipple pain is very common and doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad. Nevertheless, many women immediately think of breast cancer when they experience these symptoms. In most cases, the female menstrual cycle is responsible for the symptoms ( mastodynia ). The symptoms are part of the so-called premenstrual syndrome ( PMS ). It encompasses a variety of ailments that many women struggle with throughout their fertile period.

Breast pain may change over time. This has to do with the inner workings of the female breast, which mainly consists of fat and connective tissue. Embedded in it is the glandular tissue that produces milk when needed. In life, the ratio of fat to connective and glandular tissue changes. In older women, the fat content in the breasts predominates. Then there are hardly any nodular changes in the breast tissue during the cycle.

Sometimes, however, growths in the breast tissue can also occur, which cause pain and feelings of tenderness in the breast (mastalgia) regardless of the menstrual cycle – a phenomenon that can also affect men.

Mastodynia: cycle-dependent causes

In most cases, breast pain occurs in connection with the female menstrual cycle. As a secondary sex organ, the breasts are under the influence of hormones, estrogen in particular. These ensure that more fluid is stored in the breast tissue during the second half of the cycle. In addition, the breasts are better supplied with blood. They become larger and heavier as a result, and nodular changes can also be felt.

The increase in volume can cause some stretch pain. In addition, the breast is more sensitive to touch . The symptoms usually disappear when estrogen levels drop when menstruation begins and the fluid is flushed out of the tissues.

Not all women are equally affected by this phenomenon. They also have different sensitivity to stretch pain. In addition, women form different amounts of hormones, the influence of which has different effects.

Other hormonal causes of breast pain

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): In about six percent of women, the premenstrual symptoms ( tiredness , abdominal pain , back pain , headache ) are so severe that they have a significant impact on everyday life. Since 2000, this has been recognized as a separate illness (depressive disorder) that requires treatment.

Fibrocystic mastopathy: The term summarizes several changes in breast tissue that usually affect both breasts. The cause is a hormonal imbalance: Locally, too much estrogen and too little progesterone occur – this triggers a kind of inflammatory reaction. As a result, swellings the size of a cherry stone, movable nodules or cysts and slight pressure problems develop. In rare cases, liquid can also leak from the nipple . Fibrocystic mastopathy primarily affects women of childbearing age.

Fibroadenomas are benign tissue growths in the breast, especially in connective tissue ( fibroma ) or glandular tissue (adenoma). These “lumps” in the breast develop and grow under the influence of estrogen. Fibroadenomas occur primarily in women between the ages of 20 and 24.

Pregnancy: A certain feeling of tension, breast pain or sore nipples are considered to be one of the first signs of pregnancy. Shortly after the egg has implanted, the breast begins to prepare for its future breastfeeding task. Due to the change in glandular tissue, the breast becomes larger and more sensitive to touch.

Congested breast milk: If the baby is breastfed incorrectly, or if too much time elapses between breastfeeds, breast milk can build up in the breast. A first sign of breast engorgement is when the breast hurts or the swelling develops. Now it’s time to take countermeasures, because otherwise it can lead to a breast infection!

Menopause: Naturally, menopausal women experience cycle-related breast pain less frequently. Unless you are taking hormones specifically to combat the symptoms of menopause, then breast pain can be a possible side effect.

Mastalgia: cycle-independent causes

In addition to breast swelling associated with menstrual cycle hormonal changes, there are other changes in breast tissue that can cause breast pain and tenderness.

Cysts: A cyst is a fluid-filled blister. In breast tissue, such cysts can cause breast pain when they grow to a certain size and push the surrounding tissue aside. Most cysts are benign. It is not known exactly why they arise. They often appear between the ages of 30 and 50 or at the onset of menopause.

Benign soft-tissue tumors: These are soft, bulging-elastic nodules just under the skin . They mainly cause pain when they arise near nerves. Doctors distinguish between changes in fatty tissue (lipoma), connective tissue (fibroma) and the sac (artheroma) – dead skin cells and sebum collect here near a sebaceous gland .

Inflammation of the mammary glands during childbed (mastitis puerperalis): In the case of inflammation of the mammary glands, the breast is swollen and red, the nipples hurt. A purulent secretion can escape from them. Various triggers can be considered as the cause, for example bacteria that have gotten into the mammary gland via the milk ducts and have caused an inflammation there. This affects up to nine percent of breastfeeding mothers in childbirth, mostly in the first and second week after the birth .

Inflammation of the mammary glands outside of breastfeeding (nonpuerperal mastitis): In this form of breast inflammation, too, bacteria penetrate the breast tissue and cause inflammation there. Patients under the age of 30 are particularly affected.

Breast cancer: This is a malignant growth (tumor) in the breast tissue. It usually starts in the milk ducts and more rarely in the glandular lobules. Breast pain can also occur here, but not in the early stages. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women.

Irritated nipples: Nipples in particular are sometimes triggered by wearing the wrong clothes. Rough textiles, clothing that is too tight or constant friction (e.g. during sports) can irritate the sensitive skin there and cause Breast pain.

Breast pain in man

Men are also sometimes affected by breast pain – often in connection with an enlarged breast on one or both sides (gynaecomastia): Many sufferers also report feelings of tension and a certain sensitivity to touch in the breast. The nipples can also hurt.

Gynecomastia can occur naturally due to hormonal imbalances (as neonatal, pubertal or adult gynecomastia). Enlarged breasts in men can also be caused by illness. For example, some hereditary diseases and chronic diseases are associated with gynecomastia. A rare cause is male breast cancer: breast pain and tumor-related gynecomastia are signs of it.

Breast pain: When to See a Doctor?

Basically, if you experience Breast pain for the first time, you should have it checked out by a doctor. This also applies if other complaints and abnormalities occur, such as lumps that were not there before or a weeping nipple. If the symptoms are dependent on the menstrual cycle, they usually disappear again when the menstrual period begins. If this does not happen, you should also consult a doctor.

It is helpful if women (but also men) feel their breasts regularly. In this way, they get to know the tissue there better. Any changes will then be noticed more quickly. Any kind of change that seems strange to you should see a doctor. When in doubt, go to the doctor once too often. Breast cancer in particular is easy to treat and even curable if it is discovered at an early stage.

Breast pain: what does the doctor do?

The right contact person for female breast pain is the gynecologist. He will first question you in detail in order to collect your medical history (anamnesis). This is followed by a gynecological examination and a breast palpation examination. When palpating the breast, the doctor pays attention to any lumps or cysts.

An ultrasound examination (sonography) can be used to map the structure of the breast tissue and make changes in the breast tissue visible. Fluid-filled cysts, for example, appear black on the ultrasound image.

An X-ray examination of the breast ( mammography ) helps to rule out breast cancer as the cause of breast pain. If the X-ray shows suspicious tissue changes, the doctor can take a tissue sample ( biopsy ) in order to have it examined more closely in the laboratory.

The doctor will also take blood samples. As part of the blood test, the levels of sex hormones are measured in order to obtain any indications of a hormonal cause of the breast pain.

Note: The same examinations are carried out in men with Breast pain for clarification. The right contact person here is an andrologist or a clinic that specializes in breast diseases.

Treatment of Breast pain

Treatment for Breast pain depends on the cause. For example, if cysts are causing pain, they can be “pricked” (punctured) to drain the fluid they contain. This reduces the pressure on the surrounding tissue, and the Breast pain usually goes away. If hormonal imbalances are the cause of the pain, the doctor may prescribe hormone preparations. If breast cancer is diagnosed, individually tailored cancer therapy is initiated immediately (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, etc.).

Breast pain: you can do this yourself

Some women use home remedies for breast pain. Quark wraps sometimes help: Spread cool quark about half a centimeter thick on a cloth or compress. Fold the wrap so that there is a layer of fabric between the skin and the curd. Place the wrap on the painful area of ​​the skin.

In the case of cycle-dependent Breast pain associated with PMS, herbal supplements (e.g. with a chaste tree ), meditation and relaxation exercises can be helpful. Your gynecologist can advise you on this.

Home remedies have their limits. If the symptoms persist over a longer period of time, do not get better, or even get worse, you should always consult a doctor.

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