Although many women experience breast pain before they reach menopause, it's a common symptom of this transitional phase and affects approximately 70% of women. Breast pain is normally caused by a change in hormone levels, which fluctuate continuously during menopause. Most women don't suffer severe symptoms, but it's concerning for many sufferers. Understanding why you encounter menopausal breast pain and knowing how you can treat it is important. Read on to find out more.
What Is Breast Pain?
Breast pain is when a woman's breasts feel tender or are causing discomfort. Symptoms vary between women but include tenderness, tightness, soreness, burning, swelling, dullness, and aching. Some women suffer consistently while others experience them sporadically. Breast pain can be extremely uncomfortable and made more so when the wrong size or type of bra is worn. If you're concerned about your breasts, it's always advisable to visit your doctor for further advice.
How Does a Hormonal Imbalance Lead to Breast Pain?
Breast pain caused by a hormonal imbalance is called cyclical breast pain. During menopause, it's the most likely form of breast pain experienced. It is called cyclical breast pain because it is not constant, but comes and goes as your hormones change. Breast pain is common among menstruating women and pregnant women.
During menopause, the production of estrogen and progesterone hormones is disrupted, and fluctuations in the levels of these hormones cause breast pain. During normal menstrual cycles, hormones have an impact on breast size. Estrogen levels go up and the progesterone levels go down, meaning a woman's breasts may get slightly larger in size.
During menopause, breasts are susceptible to pain because estrogen and progesterone levels are consistently up and down, altering the normal cycle. If progesterone is dominant, breast tenderness is likely.
Could Breast Pain Be Caused by Anything Else?
A woman may also be affected by non-cyclical breast pain. This term refers to breast pain resulting from conditions other than hormonal imbalance, and does not come in cycles, but is a constant, daily pain. Non-cyclical breast pain is much less common during premenopause and perimenopause. If you are concerned about persistent breast pain, you should always visit your doctor. Below is a list of other causes of non-cyclical breast pain:
- Breast cysts
- Breast trauma
- Large or heavy breasts
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Oral contraceptive use
- Antidepressant use
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Cholesterol and heart drugs
More Information about Breast Pain
Breast pain can be an uncomfortable symptom of menopause, caused by imbalanced hormones. Small lifestyle changes can help combat this, as can alternative treatment options.
- 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.
- BMJ Group. "Menopause: What is it?" Patient Leaflet. 2007.