Breast pain and discomfort is a very common symptom and hardly ever related to any cancerous changes within the breast. Most often breast pain is related to hormonal fluctuations, and is particularly noticeable in the outer part of the breast, sometimes extending to the armpit. This type of pain is often worse before a period (‘cyclical’), during pregnancy, and in the run up to the menopause. It is often more noticeable in one breast, and there may be a feeling of lumpiness (‘nodularity’) in the outer breast.
Even after the menopause this sort of pain can occur, because the female hormones continue to be produced, just from different areas than the ovaries. This type of pain may respond to simple measures such as wearing a supportive bra. Taking a substance called gamma-Linolenic acid (GLA) in high doses (320mg per day) for 3 months can also be useful.
GLA is found in Evening Primrose Oil and Starflower Oil, both of which can be purchased from health food shops or supermarkets. In severe cases we may use anti-oestrogen drugs to help; these have side-effects though and so are not used unless felt absolutely necessary.
Breast pain can also be caused by pain within the muscles and bones of the chest wall, or inflammation around the ribs (‘costochondritis’) which your brain interprets as pain in the breast. This type of pain is less likely to fluctuate with your menstrual cycle (‘non-cyclical’) and may respond better to simple analgesics.