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Breast Pain (Mastalgia)

Managing Breast Pain

Breast pain can have many causes or factors that affect it. Many women worry that breast pain is a symptom of breast cancer. In fact, breast pain is a very uncommon symptom of breast cancer. Breast pain does not mean that you have breast cancer but you should get checked by your doctor to find the cause of the pain. Any pain that lasts for a long time is hard to deal with. Your doctor can give you a care plan and recommend ways to help you manage the pain.

The following are tips to help manage breast pain.

Wear a good-fitting bra

One of the most common causes of breast pain is wearing a bra that doesn't fit well. Wearing a bra that fits you well and has good support can help lessen breast pain. Some stores that sell bras can help you find a bra that fits you best. Find out more about fitting your bra.

Eat flaxseed

Eating flaxseed may help lessen breast pain linked to a woman’s menstrual cycle (called cyclical breast pain). Some research shows that eating 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed (not flaxseed oil) each day for 3 months helps lessen cyclical breast pain.

Use an anti-inflammatory gel

If the pain is in a specific location, then applying a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to the skin (called a topical anti-inflammatory gel) may help lessen breast pain or chest wall (musculoskeletal) pain. Your pharmacist can recommend one without a prescription or your doctor can write you a prescription for a stronger anti-inflammatory gel if you need one.

Cut down on caffeine and get regular exercise

Even though studies haven’t proven that caffeine causes breast pain, some women find that lowering their caffeine intake seems to help. Regular exercise and activities that lower stress also may also help lessen breast pain.

Talk to your doctor about the medicines you take

The birth control pill (oral contraceptive), hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), or hormone therapy (HT) can cause breast pain. Sometimes the pain goes away on its own after your body adjusts to the medicine.

If you think your pain is from the birth control pill or HT, talk to your doctor. They may be able to switch you to a lower dose or to a different brand.

Managing breast pain

Your doctor may also recommend different treatments or medications to help treat or manage your pain depending on what may be causing it. Examples may include:

  • removing fluid from a cyst in the breast
  • taking antibiotics if they think you have a breast infection
  • changing the dose of your birth control pill or HT
  • changing or stopping a medicine that could be making the pain worse
  • prescribing medications that may help balance your hormones

Herbal supplements and vitamins

There isn't enough evidence to recommend taking herbal supplements to treat breast pain. Some supplements, like ginseng, may actually cause breast pain. Other research shows that vitamins A, E, and B6 don’t help breast pain. Vitamin A can even be toxic in large doses.

Current as of: June 26, 2020

Author: Women’s Health, Alberta Health Services