Breast Pain and Cancer
Women experience breast pain as a symptom of breast cancer in only 2 - 7% of all breast cancer cases.
While breast pain during menopause is not usually cause for alarm, it is always good to speak with a doctor about this symptom if you have concerns. Breast pain is rarely indicative of breast cancer, even though many women fear this. If this is the case, speaking with a doctor to rule out breast cancer can eliminate these worries and help a woman determine how to manage breast tenderness and pain during this major life transition.
Continue reading to learn more about when to see a doctor for breast pain and what types of exams may be performed during a doctor visit.
When to See a Doctor
In some cases, it can be a good idea for a woman to seek a medical consultation for breast pain, though this is not typically necessary for breast pain in menopause.
For women who have persistent breast pain lasting three or more weeks, breast pain that seems to be getting worse with time, or pain that interferes with daily activities, consulting a trusted medical professional is recommended in order to rule out rare causes. Seeking a medical evaluation is also recommended if breast pain is affecting one particular area of the breast, discharge is present, the breasts are red, or a new lump is discovered.
Sometimes speaking with a doctor can be the best way for a woman to gain peace of mind about breast pain. Continue reading to learn more about what to expect during a doctor visit.
Tests and Procedures
A doctor will perform various exams when diagnosing breast pain.
Complete medical exam
For women who seek medical attention for breast pain, the first step after speaking with the doctor is to have a complete physical breast exam. During this medical exam, a doctor will be looking for abnormalities in the breast, lower neck, underarm, and chest regions. She may look for abnormal lumps or signs that the breast pain may be originating from an area other than the breast.
If nothing unusual is discovered during a breast exam, additional tests are not usually warranted. However, this may be a good opportunity to speak with the doctor about the symptoms of menopause, what to expect, and how to manage specific experiences.
Most women over the age of 40 are strongly advised to have an annual mammogram to screen for breast cancer.
In the rare event that a lump is discovered, a woman's doctor may perform a mammography (an x-ray exam of the breast), often done in conjunction with an ultrasound. If these imaging exams elicit evidence of breast lumps, tissue irregularities, or tissue thickening, a doctor may recommend a breast biopsy, where a small tissue sample is collected.
In most cases, breast pain during menopause is a completely normal and natural result of hormonal fluctuations. Thus, medical attention is not required by a majority of women experiencing breast pain. Fortunately, women can utilize self-care measures and pursue natural breast pain relief. Please read on to learn more about the best methods of treating breast pain.
- 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. (2013). Screening and diagnosis: Mammogram, clinical breast exam, and other tests. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/breast-cancer/screening-diagnosis-mammogram-breast-exam/