Breast pain is a common symptom that can develop during the menopausal transition, due to fluctuating levels of oestrogen and progesterone. While postmenopausal women can experience breast pain, it is most common in perimenopausal women.
A common complaint among females, breast pain affects as many as 70% of women at some point in their lives. Only a small portion of these women, about 10%, will experience severe breast pain, which can have a significant impact on relationships, work, and daily life. Nevertheless, breast pain can prompt understandable questions and concerns at any intensity.
Becoming more educated about breast pain in menopause is one of the best steps towards understanding and managing this condition.
What is breast pain
Breast pain – known medically as mastalgia, mastodynia, and mammalgia – is the general term used to mean discomfort, tenderness, and/or pain in one or both of the breasts.
Breast pain is categorized as either cyclical or non-cyclical. With the former, breast pain is the result of hormonal changes, making it the most common kind of breast pain in pre- and perimenopausal women.
Non-cyclical breast pain, more common in postmenopausal women, is not related to hormonal changes. Extramammary breast pain, which originates outside the breast, is a third type of breast discomfort.
What are the symptoms of breast pain?
The symptoms of breast pain can vary depending on the type and the individual woman. Generally speaking, symptoms include tenderness, tightness, soreness, burning, swelling, dullness, and/or aching. Symptoms can be consistent or intermittent and may affect one or both breasts.
What are the causes of breast pain?
The most common cause of breast discomfort during menopause is hormonal change. As with all times of hormonal fluctuation (i.e. menstruation and pregnancy), menopause can alter the levels of oestrogen and progesterone in the body. As a result, women may develop breast pain.
While hormones are the most common cause of breast pain experienced in menopause, other factors can cause or contribute to breast pain. These rarer causes range from serious health conditions to dietary issues.
Less common causes of breast pain
- Breast cysts
- Breast trauma
- Prior breast surgery
- Breast size
- Oral contraceptive use
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Cholesterol and heart drugs.