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What Is Mastodynia?

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  • Written By: Jillian O Keeffe
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2016
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Mastodynia is a medical term that means a patient suffers from pain in the breast. Sometimes the pain is associated with the menstrual cycle, but for some people, mastodynia is a symptom of an underlying disease. Occasionally, a patient may have breast pain that has no identifiable cause, although such simple causes as an ill-fitting bra may be found to be the problem. Pain in the breast does not generally point to the presence of breast cancer, although a doctor's advice may be sought to make sure. Other commonly used terms for breast pain include mastalgia or breast tenderness.

Pain in the breast can either follow the menstrual cycle or it can be unrelated to the menstrual cycle. Men and boys can also suffer from pain in the breast tissue, and this is especially common in puberty, as the chest develops. When pain in women is related to menstruation, it is called cyclical, as it occurs repeatedly at the same times in the cycle.

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A woman's body changes over the space of a cycle, which can have such effects as enlarging the breast at a certain point in the cycle, or indeed producing mastodynia at particular times. Commonly the pain is most obvious in the week or two preceding menstruation, and then disappears as a period starts. Women in the menopause who do not take hormone replacement therapy do not experience a menstrual cycle and so do not suffer from cyclical mastodynia. Characteristics of cyclical pain include the involvement of both breasts, pain that concentrates in the top and outside of the breast, and a generalized lumpiness can also develop in the breast tissue.

Severe cases of cyclical mastodynia may benefit from treatments such as simple painkillers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, or drugs that affect hormone levels. Natural medications like evening primrose oil and vitamin B6 are also sometimes recommended. Simple measures like wearing a bra that supports the breasts comfortably and effectively may also improve the level of pain felt.

Although cyclical mastodynia is responsible for about two-thirds of breast pain cases, other problems may also cause mastodynia. Only rarely is breast pain associated with breast cancer, although it is a possible symptom. Pregnancy and breastfeeding can also produce breast pain, due to the swelling of the breasts with milk, and the accompanying potential for mastitis infections. Various problems with the muscle or the bone that lie under the breast tissue may produce pain in the breast itself, and shingles rashes can be another cause of pain in the area. A condition called fibrocystic breasts is one of the most common causes of non-cyclical mastodynia, as the breast tissue becomes abnormally lumpy and tender.

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