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What is the Connection Between Menopause and Breast Pain?

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  • Written By: Marisa O'Connor
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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The connection between menopause and breast pain is that breast pain is often a symptom of menopause. The breast pain is usually caused by a hormone imbalance during menopause, pregnancy, and menstruation. Sometimes breast pain can accompany menopause unrelated to hormones, such as with noncyclical breast pain and extramammory pain.

Menopause is related to breast pain because of the hormone imbalance that occurs during menopause. A woman's breasts may become sore at any time when there is a hormone imbalance. Other frequent examples of breast pain due to hormone imbalance are during menstruation and pregnancy. Sore breasts are premenopausal, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal symptoms, though they are most common during premenopause and perimenopause.

The hormones that affect menopause and breast pain are the same hormones that cause similar symptoms during menstruation and pregnancy. These hormones are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Hormones fluctuate during these periods, and the reproductive organs are affected, causeing breast pain and abdominal cramps.

All women are affected by these hormones differently. The levels of the hormones, the woman's genetics, and physiology are all unique, and so the symptoms are unique to each woman. Some women may not have any breast pain during menopause at all, while others may have severe discomfort.

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Breast pain is defined as general discomfort, pain, or tenderness in one or both breasts. The medical terms for breast pain are mastalgia, mammalgia, and mastodynia. Up to 70 percent of women experience breast pain during their lifetime. Fortunately, most symptoms are mild. Only about 10 percent of women experience severe symptoms of menopause and breast pain.

When present, menopause and breast pain can show up in many different ways. The pain may be constant throughout menopause or intermittent. The pain can show up in one or both breasts, and it can be general breast pain or pain localized to one area of the breast. Breast pain may be accompanied by breast swelling, sharp, burning, or a dull or aching sensation in the breast, as well as aches, tightness, and fullness.

The most common type of breast pain during menopause is cyclical breast pain. This describes dull, aching, or heavy breasts, as well as swelling and lumpiness. Cyclical breast pain typically affects both breasts. This type usually affects perimenopausal and premenstrual women.

A less common type of breast pain is noncyclical, which is not caused by hormone changes. It is most common in postmenopausal women and is experienced as soreness, burning, or tightness, usually only affecting one breast. Extrammamary pain can occur during menopause, but it is not related to menopause. The pain is located outside the breast and usually is from a pulled muscle.

A common misunderstanding of the connection between menopause and breast pain is the fear that breast pain indicates breast cancer. Breast pain can be alarming to many women and their families. The vast majority of breast pain complaints during menopause are not due to cancer. It is typically a signal that hormonal changes are occurring in the body. If the sore breast is accompanied by a new lump in the breast, a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible, as a lump is a possible sign of breast cancer.

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