Breast pain is a common symptom that can develop in connection to a woman's hormone cycle. During menopause, when a woman's hormonal levels become imbalanced, the likelihood of breast discomfort increases. While postmenopausal women can experience breast pain, it is most common in premenopausal and perimenopausal women.
Breast pain is a common symptom, affecting 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 negatively impact daily life.
While breast pain can be concerning, it rarely signals breast cancer. Most cases of breast symptoms in menopausal women are caused by normal hormonal changes in the body. Better understanding breast pain in menopause is one of the best steps towards managing this symptom. Please read on to learn more about breast pain.
Breast Pain Definition
Breast pain - known medically as mastalgia, mastodynia, or mammalgia - is the general term used to mean discomfort, tenderness, or pain in one or both of the breasts.
Many women experience breast pain around the time of menstruation or during pregnancy, when the hormones estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone are in flux. As with menstruation and pregnancy, menopause is also a time of hormonal fluctuations, which means breast tenderness and pain may appear.
Breast pain can occur at any point in life and varies based on a woman's own unique physiology and genetics. However, there are common symptoms of breast pain that occur. Please read on to learn more about these symptoms.
Symptoms of Breast Pain
Breast pain symptoms can be persistent or intermittent during menopause. Some women will experience symptoms in both breasts, while others will have breast pain that affects only one side of the body. In some women, the symptoms of breast pain are limited to only one region of breast, while in others, the pain is more spread out. The most common-reported symptoms include:
- Breast swelling
- Breast soreness
- Sharp breast pain
- Burning sensation
- Dull, heavy, or aching feelings
- Breast tenderness
Please read on to learn more about the different types of breast pain that can occur during a woman's life.
Types of Breast Pain
There are three main types of breast pain, with most cases of breast pain classified as either cyclic or non-cyclic. However, in some cases, breast discomfort can be classified as extramammary, because the origin of the pain is outside of the breast itself.
The Most Common Type of Breast Pain in Menopause
Cyclic breast pain is most closely related to the menstrual cycle and changing levels of hormones. This is the type of breast pain most commonly experienced by premenstrual women and perimenopausal women in their 40s.
- Often described as dull, heavy, or aching
- Breast swelling or lumpiness
- Usually affects both breasts
Less Common Types of Breast Pain
Non-cyclic breast pain is unrelated to the hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle. This type is more common in postmenopausal women.
- Experienced as a tight, burning, or sore sensation
- Intermittent or constant
- Usually localized, affecting one breast
Extramammary pain is discomfort that originates from an area other than the breast. For example, a pulled muscle in the chest can cause breast pain.
While some women describe their symptoms as breast pain, many others report feeling breast tenderness during menopause. Even though the distinction between tenderness and pain is subjective, breast tenderness is often described as mild to moderate discomfort and sensitivity to touch while pain is more intense or localized. Click here to learn more about breast tenderness during menopause.
Now that the symptoms and types of breast pain are better understood, the next step is learning more about the causes of breast pain during menopause.
- Love, S. (2003). Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press.
- National Health Service UK. (2014). Breast pain. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/breastpaincyclical/Pages/Introduction.aspx
- Office on Women's Health. (2012). Menopause and menopause treatments fact sheet. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/menopause-treatment.html