Definition of Breast Pain
Referred to in the medical community as “mastalgia,” “mammalgia” or “mastodynia,” menopause breast pain causes discomfort in one or both breasts due to fluctuating hormones. Most cases of menopause breast pain are classified as cyclic breast pain and include tenderness, pain, aching, sensitivity and tenderness. Some women experience sharp, random breast pains, often described as “stabbing” in nature.
Women may also experience swelling in the breasts, making them sensitive to movements such as walking, jumping or jostling. Due to this heightened breast sensitivity, some women experience less pleasure in their breasts as erotic zones, leading to a loss of libido in romantic relationships.
Symptoms of Menopause Breast Pain
Heaviness in the breast
Sharp breast pains
Stabbing breast pain
Loss of libido
Tightness in the breasts
Causes of Menopause Breast Pain
During menopause, levels of vital hormones – such as estrogen and progesterone – begin to fluctuate and ultimately decline. Cyclic menopausal breast pain occurs due to hormone shifts, the same reason that breast pain tends to occur during other times of hormonal fluctuation in life, such as menstruation or pregnancy.
As hormone levels rise and fall suddenly, women experience breast pain as a result. Each woman’s response to hormone changes will be different, some women will encounter breast pain due to progesterone declines, while others experience breast pain due to excess or deficient estrogen. Imbalances in fatty acids contained within cells may also occur during menopause, causing increased hormonal sensitivity in breast tissue, and resulting in pain within the breast. Menopause breast pain can also occur due to psychological stress that occurs as a result of hormonally driven chemical imbalances.
Though rare, some causes of breast pain may not be related to the menopause process itself. Injury to the breast or chest, breast surgery, certain medications, alcohol addiction, birth control pills and even hormone replacement therapy can cause breast pain to occur during menopause. Women who are well-endowed may experience breast pain from the heft of breasts, and some women may experience breast pain related to mastitis – infections in the breast. In extremely rare cases, breast pain may also be due to breast cysts or breast cancer.
Menopause Breast Pain Treatments
Though hormone replacement therapy (also known as HRT) can provide hormonal balance to women during menopause, it also can elevate the risk of blood clots, strokes, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer, hormone replacement therapy can also cause breast pain. Up to 30% of women on HRT experience breast tenderness.
Lymphatic massage, bras with adequate support, and ice may also bring temporary relief from menopause breast pain. Lifestyle changes such as increased exercise and a healthy diet may also prove helpful, not just for breast pain but for most menopause symptoms.
Menopause Breast Pain FAQ's
Q: Does breast pain during menopause indicate the presence of breast cancer?
A: Generally, symptoms of breast pain rarely signify breast cancer. However, talking to your physician about your breast pain may alleviate fears that can arise when pain in the breasts occurs. Doctors can perform a physical examination and routine mammogram to ensure that breast cancer is not the cause of your breast pain.
Q: When should I seek medical attention for breast pain?
A: If you experience breast pain that is local to a specific area of a single breast, make an appointment with your physician. Additionally, if other symptoms occur, such as irritation or redness of breast skin, an accompanying fever, or nipple discharge, seek medical attention as an infection may be present. In general, any breast pain that grows worse, feels severe, or persists consistently over time warrants a visit to your doctor.
Q: What are other types of breast pain that are not related to menopause hormone changes?
A: Non-cyclic breast pain, most common in post-menopause, is generally confined to a single area of one breast. Extramammary breast pain can be responsible for aches and pains that feel like they originate in the breast, but actually are coming from the chest, ribcage or underarm region.