Breast pain is common, affecting around two thirds of women in their lifetime. There are different types of breast pain, with differing causes, and it often occurs around certain points in a woman's life, such as pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause. This leads some to wonder if there is a connection between breast pain and hormonal imbalance. Keep reading to learn more about the link between these two factors.
Breast pain can range from a slight feeling of tenderness to sharp or burning sensations, and often they go away on their own. Many women are worried when they experience breast pain, but it is very rarely a cause for alarm. If the pain does not disappear after a few weeks, it is worth seeking medical advice in order to rule out any serious conditions, but most women find a few lifestyle changes will often solve the problem.
Hormones and Breast Pain
Breast pain falls under two distinct categories - cyclical and non-cyclical. Cyclical breast pain is the type that is caused by hormonal imbalance, and usually occurs in predictable patterns. Estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate during various periods in a woman's life, and these two hormones have a direct effect on the breast tissue. Occasionally, this can also be the cause of fibrocystic change, which is when fluid-filled cysts appear in the breast, and these can sometimes cause tenderness in the tissue.
Hormonal stimulation can also cause the breasts to retain water, leading to breast pain. This water retention is the direct result of the milk glands and ducts enlarging. This can happen to women regularly alongside their menstrual cycles and women in perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause), but will usually cease once the woman has reached postmenopause.
Around three quarters of all breast complaints are cyclical in nature, meaning that hormonal changes are the leading cause of breast pain. In order to determine if unbalanced hormone levels genuinely are the cause, a patient will often be asked to chart the pain. If you are considering talking to a doctor about this problem, then keep track of the pain for a few weeks beforehand will lead to a more successful appointment.
However, despite them being a leading cause of breast pain, hormonal changes do not account for all breast pain cases. Non-cyclical breast pain often arises from some kind of trauma or inflammation of the breast tissue or the surrounding muscle. Strenuous exercise without a proper supporting bra can cause stress to the chest area, especially in women with larger breasts. In addition, foreign objects (such as bra underwire) digging into the tissue can cause soreness, which can be painful.
Breast pain is a nuisance, and it is more often than not caused by hormonal fluctuations. However, this does not mean you have to put up with the pain. Certain lifestyle changes, such as eating the right foods, can help alleviate the discomfort. Talking to a doctor about ways to reduce the frequency and intensity of breast pain will prevent hormonal changes having a negative impact on your life.
- Better Health Channel. (2011) Breast conditions other than breast cancer. Retrieved September 22, 2014, from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Breast_conditions_other_than_breast_cancer
- Breast Cancer Care. (2013). Breast pain. Retrieved September 22, 2014, from http://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/breast-cancer-information/benign-breast-conditions/breast-pain#noncyclical
- National Breast Cancer Foundation. (2012). Breast Pain. Retrieved September 22, 2014, from http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-pain
- National Institutes of Health. (2012). Breast pain. Retrieved September 22, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003152.htm