Information for you from regional west medical center’s breast health center
Breast pain questions and answers
What is breast pain?
Breast pain is the number one complaint of women to their physicians,
mammographers, or other caregivers. Ninety percent of al women wil experience
breast pain at some point in their lifetime. Rest assured, though; breast pain is
rarely associated with cancer!
Breast pain will be one of two types: cyclical or
What causes it?
(2/3 of incidence) is discomfort that fluctuates with a woman’s monthly
hormonal changes. The elevating hormone levels cause the breast to produce and
store 15 to 30 cc (three to six teaspoons) of fluid in each breast. The pressure of the
stored fluid causes tenderness and pain. Discomfort begins at the time of ovulation,
peaks about five days before the start of the menstrual period, and is significantly
relieved after the period starts. It may be more pronounced in one side over the
other, but will be present in both breasts. It is usual y more prominent in the upper
outer area of the breast and may radiated down the arm to the elbow. Cyclic breast
pain tends to escalate with time until after menopause.
(1/3 of incidence) can be caused by one of the many non-
cancerous breast conditions, hypothyroidism, muscle or cartilage injury in the chest,
or from a pinched nerve in the chest area. It may also be the result of a previous
breast injury or surgery. It occurs regardless of the menstrual cycle stage.
What can I do to help my health care provider evaluate my pain?
First of all, keep a daily record of your pain for at least one month. This wil help
determine whether the pain is cyclical or not. Items to include in your record are:
—which area of the breast hurts? Does it radiate or ‘travel’ to another
—Assign a number to the pain each day. Use a scale of 0-10, with ‘0’
being no pain at al and ‘10’ being the worst pain you can imagine.
• Assign a word to the pain to describe it
—Examples: dull, aching, throbbing,
Next, careful y record any prescription or non-prescription medicines that you are
currently using. Include any herbals or supplements. If you take a preparation that
contains a combination of supplements, list each ingredient separately. Commonly
used medications that can contribute to breast pain include:
—birth control pil s, estrogen supplements, Zoladex
• Antidepressants and tranquilizers
—Elavil, Haldol, Mellaril, Navane, Paxil,
• Gastrointestinal preparations
—Compazine, Tagamet, Zantac
• Heart/blood pressure medications
—Aldomet, Capoten, Catapres, Lanoxin,
—Flexeril, Ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil) with long-term use
Common, daily-use products can also contribute to breast pain. They include:
—Some women may be very sensitive to caffeine; others may not be
bothered by it at al . Caffeine is prevalent in coffee, tea, chocolate, and colas.
It can be a hidden ingredient in many other products like: sodas (Mel o
Yel ow, Mountain Dew, all colas), stimulants, (Vivarin and No-Doz), pain
relievers (Excedrin, Midol), diuretics (Aqua-Ban), and weight control aids
—Guarana and kola nut (both strong sources of caffeine); Ma Huang,
ephedra sinica, Chinese ephedra (sources of pseudoephedrine, a stimulant);
ginseng, dong quai (used for menopause and PMS symptoms; produces an
estrogen effect on breast tissue); or soy/soy protein/tofu (often in liquid diet
foods and causes an estrogen effect on breasts).
• High salt diet
—Excess sodium (salt) causes the body to retain too much
water. If the body holds on to extra fluid, the breast tissue wil too, and wil
• High fat diet
—Estrogen is not only stored in our body’s fat, but is also
produced by fat cel s. The more fat consumed, the more estrogen-effect
noted. Current recommendations are to limit dietary fat intake to less than 20
What else can I do to relieve my pain?
• Wear a support bra.
Minimizing movement of the breast tissue can
significantly decrease breast pain. It is often helpful to wear a sports bra
when exercising and sleeping. Avoid going braless.
• Increase dietary intake of seafood.
This will increase the natural iodine level,
which can cause a decrease in the body’s response to estrogen.
• Try vitamin supplements like Evening Primrose oil supplements, Vitamin E or
Vitamin A supplements.
It may take several months to notice improvement in
• Apply heat to the breast tissue.
This can be done as often as desired.
• Use over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like Motrin or Advil.
Take 400 mg
• Consult your health care provider for persistent pain.
that may help include: low-dose birth control pil s, progesterone pills or
cream, Danazol, Tamoxifen, Bromocriptine, thyroid, or testosterone.
If you have any questions, call:
308.630.2253 to speak to a Breast Health Center technologist
Information for you from Regional West’s Breast Health Center
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