Updated: Jul 8
Bust pain, or Mastalgia, is common in women of all ages and can often be a source of anxiety. It can vary in intensity and is typically felt as tenderness, burning, a sharp stabbing pain, or as an aching heaviness that may occur in both bust, one bust, or in the underarm area. According to some studies up to 70% of women will experience bust pain (mastalgia) at some point in their lives, although only around 15% will require medical treatment. Some bust pain is an effect of hormonal changes in body like pregnancy and puberty.
Bust Pain and Cancer
Many women are anxious that Mastalgia could be a sign of breast cancer, but pain is not usually an early symptom. Nevertheless, it's important to see your doctor if you're concerned about bust pain.
Types of Bust Pain
There are three main categories of Mastalgia: Cyclical bust pain, non-cyclical bust pain and chest wall pain.
Cyclical Bust Pain
Cyclical bust pain is due to a fluctuation in hormones during the menstrual cycle which makes the bust tissue more sensitive, although the exact cause is unknown. The discomfort tends to affect both bust and usually occurs during the week or so before a period. Often the pain is accompanied by changes including lumpiness and thickened areas of bust tissue, and feelings of swelling like the bust become bigger, aching and heaviness usually resolve after menstruation.
Non-Cyclical Bust Pain
Non-cyclic bust pain can occur at any time and is not linked to your menstrual cycle. This type of pain is pretty uncommon. The type of pain can vary, but it’s usually a continuous pain that is felt in one specific area of the bust. It can be sharp, dull, or radiating.
Non-cyclic bust pain causes include things like:
● certain medications such as birth control or antidepressants
● infections like mastitis or a bust abscess
● pregnancy / breastfeeding
● lack of proper support from a poorly fitting bra or exercise
● rib injuries
● muscle pain
Chest Wall Pain
Chest wall pain feels as though it is located in the bust, but actually emanates from elsewhere. Also known as extra-mammary pain, this is often triggered by respiratory infection or trauma in other parts of body that can cause referred pain on the chest wall. Inflammation of the cartilage of the ribs and bust-bone (sternum) can also give rise to referred bust pain, particularly conditions such as Chondritis and Tietze's Syndrome.
When to Worry About Bust Pain?
Hormones play a big role in the development of bust tissue and the pain that can develop there. For every women, changing on hormone fluctuations cause ducts and glands in the busts to grow and shrink in cycles.
Most causes of breast pain will go away on their own with time, medications, or lifestyle changes. However, if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, schedule an appointment with a doctor for an evaluation and diagnosis:
● a fever
● discharge from your nipples
● sudden increases in pain or pain changes
● a painful lump or mass
● discoloration or skin changes
● pain in one specific area
● pain not associated with your menstrual cycle
What can you do to relieve bust pain?
Some things that you can do to relieve bust pain:
● Review your medications, including the type of birth control you use.
● Make sure you have a good fit for your bra.
● Lower your intake of salty or fatty foods.
● Decrease your caffeine intake.
● Use over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications or as the doctor subscribe.
● Apply ice, a cold compress, or heating pads.
● Take a hot shower
● Stop smoking and drinking alcohol
Bust pain is common and usually not serious. Most women will experience this at some point in their lives, but only a few will be diagnosed with a serious problem like cancer. If you have concerns about your bust pain, talk with a doctor about your symptoms. Be sure to follow their recommendations for regular screenings. Discussing your risk factors — including family and genetic history — can help you and your doctor make the best decisions regarding your bust health.