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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. 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 crushed flaxseed (not flaxseed oil) each day for 3 months helps lessen cyclical breast pain.

Use an anti-inflammatory gel

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 doctor can give you a prescription for a strong anti-inflammatory gel or your pharmacist can recommend one without a prescription but it likely won’t be as strong.

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) and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) 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 HRT, talk to your doctor. They may be able to switch you to a lower dose or to a different brand.

Severe breast pain

If you have very bad (severe) breast pain, talk to your doctor about medicines that change your hormone levels or manage chronic pain. Your doctor may also recommend the following depending on what may be causing your breast pain:

  • 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 HRT
  • changing or stopping a medicine that could be making the pain worse

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: May 16, 2018

Author: Women’s Health, Alberta Health Services