Breast tenderness and pain is something that many women experience to some degree. Usually, the pain and soreness is not severe, and it is often related to the natural hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle. The discomfort usually waxes and wanes so that it is most noticeable for a few days and then it subsides again. Breast soreness and pain is also a common early sign of pregnancy. Although common, breast pain is not something that many women specifically seek medical attention for. Even though it is annoying, it usually goes away on its own. However, there are some cases in which hormonal breast pain and discomfort is so severe that medical treatment is warranted. Breast pain may also be caused by benign or malignant growths which may require medical treatment.
If a woman complains of severe monthly breast pain, one potential solution to help with the pain is a prescription for the birth control pill. Combined oral contraceptives can help with many menstrual cycle-related problems, including breast tenderness, irregular menstrual cycles and uterine cramping, because they help regulate hormone levels. Taking the pill helps many women with breast pain, but it is not the solution for everybody. Different types of birth control pills also have different types of synthetic estrogen and progesterone in different amounts, so some women tolerate different pills better than others. Some women develop more serious breast pain when they start the pill or change dosages of hormones. If you are experiencing breast pain and you are already on the birth control pill, switching to a different kind of pill or even a non-hormonal birth control method, such as an IUD, may be beneficial. If you have recently switched hormonal birth control methods, it may take a few months for your body to adjust to the new hormones and there is a good chance that many of the side effects will subside after this occurs. If you are still having problems after three months, talk to your doctor.
In most cases, it is okay to take an over-the-counter pain reliever for severe breast soreness, as long as you are not using the medication for long periods of time or in large doses without telling your doctor. If this is not helping, or if you have any questions, talk to your doctor. Prescription medications specifically for breast pain, such as Danazol, are available but unlikely to be helpful in most cases because the medications can cause serious side effects. These medications are usually reserved for the most severe cases only, in which the benefits outweigh the potential side effects.
Some women suffer breast pain and pain in the neck, shoulders and back due to abnormally large breasts. In these cases, wearing supportive and well-fitting bras can help. Some women for whom this is a chronic and severe problem may elect to have breast reduction surgery to alleviate some of these problems.
Some breast pain is caused by benign breast growths, such as breast cysts or fibroadenomas. Many of these growths are not painful and may just be left alone and monitored, but when they are painful they may need to be treated medically. Breast cysts can be drained via needle aspiration of the fluid contained within them. Large fibroadenomas and other benign growths can be surgically removed. Sometimes, benign breast growths may be surgically removed in their entirety and then checked to see if they are cancerous. Other times, benign breast tumors may be biopsied with a less invasive method that leaves them in place within the breast.
Like benign growths, breast cancer does not usually cause breast pain when the tumors are small and the cancer is still in the early stages of development. If breast cancer is found, the treatment depends on how advanced the cancer is. Treatment may be composed of surgical removal of the tumor, surgical removal of the tumor plus some breast tissue, surgical removal of lymph nodes or surgical removal of the whole breast. Radiation and chemotherapy may also be utilized depending on the case. Drugs that block hormones from getting to breast cancer cells, such as Tamoxifen, may be given to women with breast cancer during the process of treatment to help control the growth of cancer cells that require hormones to grow. Other drugs called targeted drugs may be used to attack breast cancer cells; one member of this class of drugs is called Herceptin. The approach or combination of approaches that are used to treat breast cancer depend on the case. The benefits and risks of treatment must be weighed, because each type of breast cancer treatment has potentially serious side effects and some treatments are better for certain types of breast cancer and different stages of breast cancer development.