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Definition

Mastalgia is breast pain. There are two types:

  • Cyclical pain is linked to menstrual cycles
  • Noncyclical pain is not linked to menstrual cycles

Causes

In some people, the cause is unknown.

The pain can be caused by:

  • Hormonal changes from a woman's cycle
  • Pregnancy
  • Trauma to the breast
  • Mastitis
  • Thrombophlebitis
  • Stretching of breast ligaments
  • Certain medicines, such as hormone medicines, antidepressants, or certain heart medicines

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Having large breasts
  • Not wearing a bra that fits well and has good support
  • Using certain medicines

Symptoms

The main symptom is pain in the breast area. Pain may be mild or severe. It may be in both breasts or just one. It may be painful only in one spot or all over.

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on your breasts. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

Images may need to be taken to look for any breast changes. This can be done with:

Treatment

Treatment will be based on what is causing the pain. Options are:

  • Using hot or cold packs
  • Lifestyle changes, such as wearing a supportive bra, avoiding caffeine, or eating a low-fat diet
  • Medicines to ease pain
  • Changing or stopping medicines that may be causing pain

Prevention

There are no known guidelines to prevent this problem.

RESOURCES:

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
http://www.acog.org

Office on Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services
http://www.womenshealth.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Canadian Women's Health Network
http://www.cwhn.ca

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC)
http://sogc.org

REFERENCES:

Mastalgia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/mastalgia. Accessed October 19, 2020.

Salzman B, Fleegle S, et al. Common breast problems. Am Fam Physician. 2012 Aug 15;86(4):343-9EBSCOhost Full Text full-text, editorial can be found in Am Fam Physician 2012 Aug 15;86(4):325.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Elliot M. Levine, MD, FACOG  Last Updated: 10/16/2020