Breast Pain / Mastalgia - Symptom Evaluation - Causes

Dr. Simi Paknikar
Medically Reviewed by The Medindia Medical Review Team  on Jul 26, 2014
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Causes

Causes of breast pain vary from cysts, infections, injuries to cancer.

Some causes of breast pain are:

Fibrocystic Changes: Fibrocystic changes in the breast may appear as thickening of fibrous tissue, which may disappear on their own. Small lumps called fibroadenomas may occur along with the fibrocystic changes of the breast. The lumps feel rubbery and are movable. Fibrocystic changes of the breast are usually harmless.

Breast Cysts: Breast cysts are well-demarcated collections of fluid within the breast. These may be tender, especially before mensis.

Breast Infection: Mastitis or breast infection commonly occurs during breast-feeding. The woman shows symptoms of pain, redness, swelling and increase in temperature of the breast. The nipple may also show the presence of some cracks. In some cases, the infection may be localized to a part of the breast, resulting in the formation of an abscess. Breast infection may be accompanied by nipple discharge and/or fever.

Injury to the Breast: Injury to the breast may follow trauma or after breast surgery.

Medications: Use of estrogens can cause breast pain. Other medications that have been associated with breast pain are digoxin, methyldopa, spironolactone, oxymetholone and chlorpromazine.

Shingles: Shingles or herpes zoster may affect the nerves over a breast. The patient experiences shooting pain along the nerve, accompanied by a rash along the course of the nerve.

Costochondritis: Costochondritis is inflammation of the cartilage where a rib joins the breast bone. It may appear to the patient that the pain arises from the overlying breast. A careful examination can detect the exact source of the pain.

Breast Cancer: Breast pain associated with the presence of a lump in the breast should be investigated for cancer. Of note, breast cancer often occurs without pain, so any breast lump should be investigated for cancer irrespective of the presence or absence of pain.

References:

  1. Mastalgia. SOGC Clinical Practice Guideline. J Obstet Gynaecol Can 2006;28(1):49-60
  2. Breast Lumps and Pain Overview - (http://www.emedicinehealth.com/breast_lumps_and_pain/article_em.htm)
  3. Why Do My Breasts Hurt? - (http://women.webmd.com/tc/breast-pain-mastalgia-topic-overview)
  4. Morrow M. The Evaluation of Common Breast Problems. Am Fam Physician. 2000 Apr 15;61(8):2371-2378.

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