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5 reasons behind breast pain – Expert Perspective

Breast pain (mastalgia) can be described as tenderness, throbbing, sharp, stabbing, burning pain or tightness in the breast tissue. The pain may be constant or it may occur only occasionally, and it can occur in both men and women.

Breast pain can range from mild to severe, and may occur just a few days a month, with women getting it mostly in the two to three days leading up to a menstrual period. In men, breast pain is most commonly caused by a condition called “gynecomastia” (guy-nuh-koh-MAS-tee-uh). This refers to an increase in the amount of breast gland tissue that’s caused by an imbalance of the hormones estrogen and testosterone.

As women, we’re often accustomed to “feminine” pain, but there’s one aspect that can sometimes catch us off guard: breast pain. It’s a discomfort that can range from a nagging ache to sharp, stabbing sensations, leaving many of us wondering what’s causing it and whether it’s something to worry about.

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To shed light on this topic, we’ve spoken with Dr. Joseph Mogaka, an oncologist to explore the five key reasons behind breast pain.

“Hormonal fluctuations are a common trigger for breast pain,” Dr. Mogaka explains. “Throughout the menstrual cycle, estrogen and progesterone levels rise and fall, impacting breast tissue and leading to tenderness or pain.” This cyclic pain often occurs in the days leading up to menstruation and tends to subside once the period begins. It’s a normal part of many women’s monthly experiences.

Another culprit Dr. Mogaka highlights is breast cysts. “These fluid-filled sacs can develop within breast tissue, causing discomfort or pain,” he says. “While they’re typically benign, they can still be bothersome.” Breast cysts are more common in women approaching menopause and may fluctuate in size throughout the menstrual cycle, potentially exacerbating pain.

“Fibrocystic breast changes are also a significant contributor to breast pain,” Dr Mogaka continues. “This term refers to noncancerous lumps or areas of thickened tissue in the breasts.” While fibrocystic changes aren’t associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, they can cause discomfort and tenderness, particularly in response to hormonal fluctuations or caffeine consumption.

In addition to these breast-related causes, Dr Mogaka emphasizes the importance of considering musculoskeletal factors. “Sometimes, breast pain can originate from muscles, joints, or connective tissues surrounding the breasts,” she explains. “Poor posture, muscle strain, or injuries to the chest area can all contribute to discomfort that radiates to the breasts.” Activities like heavy lifting or intense workouts without proper support can exacerbate this type of pain.

Lastly, Dr Mogaka highlights the role of medications and supplements in breast pain. “Certain medications and supplements, such as hormonal therapies, birth control pills, and some antidepressants, can cause breast tenderness as a side effect,” he notes. “Additionally, supplements containing hormones or herbal ingredients may affect breast tissue and lead to discomfort.”

Understanding these underlying factors is crucial for effective management and peace of mind. “If you experience persistent or severe breast pain, it’s important to seek medical evaluation,” Dr Mogaka advises. “While most cases of breast pain are benign, a thorough assessment can rule out serious underlying conditions and provide tailored treatment options.”