Mastalgia, commonly known as breast pain, can occur as either a persistent or occasional discomfort. This condition is frequently experienced by women aged 30 to 50, but it’s essential to recognize that men and transgender individuals can also be affected. Symptoms of breast pain include tenderness, throbbing, intense stabbing or scorching pain, and a feeling of tightness in the breast tissue.
Breast pain can be classified into two types.
Breast pain can vary in intensity from mild to severe and may manifest in different patterns: it might occur just a few days each month, typically in the two to three days leading up to a menstrual period, causing mild-to-moderate discomfort in both breasts. Alternatively, it could last for a week or longer every month, starting before a period and possibly continuing throughout the menstrual cycle, with pain ranging from moderate to severe, affecting both breasts. In some cases, the pain may persist throughout the entire month, unrelated to the menstrual cycle.
Breast pain in transgender men may be caused by the small amount of breast tissue that remains after a mastectomy. Hormone therapy may induce breast soreness in transsexual women. Whereas the primary reason for breast pain in males is typically attributed to a condition known as gynecomastia, which is an enlargement of breast gland tissue due to an imbalance in the hormone’s estrogen and testosterone.
Breast pain is typically related to noncancerous (benign) breast conditions and is rarely associated with breast cancer. Nevertheless, it is crucial to treat unexplained breast pain with seriousness. If the pain persists for more than one or two menstrual cycles, extends beyond menopause, or does not seem to be linked to hormonal changes, seeking medical evaluation and assessment is essential.
The symptoms of breast discomfort can differ depending on whether it is classified as cyclic or noncyclic. Cyclic breast pain tends to follow a predictable pattern, recurring at regular intervals. Conversely, noncyclic breast pain is either constant or lacks a consistent pattern.
Both cyclic and noncyclic breast pain categories exhibit distinct characteristics, signs, and symptoms. The severity of the pain experienced can vary from one individual to another.
If you are experiencing breast pain, it’s essential to schedule an appointment with your doctor if:
The causes of breast pain differ if it is cyclic or noncyclic. However, in many cases, the cause is unknown. Cyclic breast pain is often triggered by the natural menstrual cycle. Changes in hormone levels can affect the milk ducts or milk glands. These alterations in the ducts and glands can result in painful breast cysts.
Noncyclic breast pain causes may include birth control pills, breast cysts, pregnancy, inflammation, infection, costochondritis, trauma, surgical scars, among others. Noncyclic breast pain can also be caused by certain activities, such as smoking, consumption of caffeine, stress, and breastfeeding.
Breast pain is prevalent among individuals who have not yet completed menopause, but it may also be experienced after menopause. Additionally, breast pain can occur in men with gynecomastia and transgender individuals undergoing gender reassignment.
Certain factors can contribute to a higher risk of breast pain, such as:
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