The medical term for breast pain is mastalgia, and while breast swelling and tenderness are more often linked with pregnancy, breastfeeding, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS), they are also common symptoms of menopause. The majority of women will experience breast swelling and tenderness at some point, as they are common medical symptoms.
What Causes Breast Swelling and Tenderness?
There are two types of mastalgia: cyclical breast pain is related to a woman's monthly cycle, while non-cyclical breast pain can affect women of any age. Both kinds of pain are linked to hormonal imbalance. Swollen breasts are most likely to occur during menopause when the levels of hormones in the body fluctuate. Breast tenderness is also most commonly associated with fibrocystic changes in breast tissue that often occur during pregnancy, breast-feeding, or menopause.
Less common causes for breast swelling and tenderness include:
- Excessive caffeine and salt intake
- Oral contraception
In very rare cases, breast swelling and tenderness can be a sign of cancer or other malignant tumors, but this is highly unlikely. Having this in mind, it is always recommended to visit your doctor and to get yearly mammograms after the age of 40.
What Are the Symptoms of Breast Swelling and Tenderness?
- Increase in size of the breasts
- Feeling of heaviness
- Breasts being sore to the touch
It has also been reported that the pain associated with these symptoms is sometimes more intense during menopause. For non-cyclic mastalgia, the symptoms should not be long-lived, and if they persist, medical advice should be sought.
Managing Breast Swelling and Tenderness
There are many lifestyle adjustments that can help make breast swelling and tenderness more manageable:
Lower caffeine and salt consumption. Since excessive consumption of both nutrients can cause water retention in breasts, they can easily be linked to a stronger sensation of swelling and tenderness.
Take more vitamin E. This vitamin has long been popular for providing relief from breast pain and swelling.
Wear a well-fitting bra. This may be one of the simplest and most effective ways of reducing breast pain.
Use warm compresses. Applying a warm compress at the base of each breast can help relieve the pain after a particularly painful day.
Treatments for Breast Swelling and Tenderness
Coping tips can diminish the pain; however, there are other approaches that can help achieve more lasting relief. These may include alternative treatments and medications. Learn more about the different options to treat breast swelling and tenderness here.
- BMJ Group. "Menopause: What is it?" Patient Leaflet. 2007.
- Hutchinson, Susan M.D. "The Stages of a Woman's Life: Menstruation, Pregnancy, Nursing, Perimenopause, Menopause". November 2007.
- Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.