KidsMD Health Topics


  • Overview

    Mastalgia is breast pain. It’s generally classified as either cyclical (associated with menstrual periods) or noncyclical.

    • Noncyclical pain may come from the breast or may come from somewhere else, such as nearby muscles or joints.
    • Pain can range from minor discomfort to severely incapacitating pain.
    • Many women with mastalgia worry more about the fear of cancer than about the pain itself.

    Breast Clinic

    Children’s Hospital Boston offers a dedicated Breast Clinic staffed with physicians and nurses who are familiar with every kind of breast disorder, and, more importantly, the latest and most effective treatments. No matter how severe your pain is our expert doctors can help treat your discomfort and let you resume your normal life.

    Boston Children's Hospital 
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115

     fax: 617-738-1657

  • In-Depth

    What is cyclical breast pain?

    The most common type of breast pain is associated with the menstrual cycle. It’s nearly always hormonal. Some women begin to have pain around the time of ovulation, which continues until the beginning of their menstrual cycle.

    The pain can either be barely noticeable or so severe that the woman cannot wear tight-fitting clothing or tolerate close contact of any kind. The pain may be felt in only one breast or may be felt as a radiating sensation in the under-arm region.

    What is noncyclical breast pain?

    Noncyclical breast pain is fairly uncommon, feels different than cyclical mastalgia, and does not vary with the menstrual cycle. Generally, the pain is present all the time and is in only one specific location.

  • Tests

    How is cyclical breast pain diagnosed?

    It may be helpful for you to chart your breast pain to determine if the pain is cyclical or not. After a few months, the relationship between the menstrual cycle and breast pain will emerge.

    How is noncyclical breast pain diagnosed?

    One cause of noncyclical breast pain is trauma, or a blow to the breast. Other causes can include arthritic pain in the chest cavity and in the neck, which can radiate down to the breast.

    Your doctor will be able to give you a diagnosis after a physical examination.

  • How is cyclical breast pain treated?

    There are a number of different ways to treat cyclical breast pain.

    Here are a few that your doctor may recommend:

    • Caffeine avoidance
    • Vitamin E
    • Evening primrose oil (a naturally occurring triglyceride)
    • A low-fat

    In some cases, your doctor may prescribe some of the following supplemental hormones and hormone blockers:

    • Birth control pills
    • Bromocriptin (which blocks prolactin in the hypothalamus)
    • Danazol, a male hormone
    • Thyroid hormones
    • Tamoxifen., an estrogen blocker

    How is noncyclical breast pain treated?

    Determining the appropriate treatment for noncyclical breast pain is more difficult, not only because it is hard to pinpoint where the pain is coming from, but also because the pain is not hormonal.

    Your doctor will probably perform a physical examination and may order a mammogram.

    In some cases, a biopsy of the area is also necessary. If it is determined that the pain is caused by a cyst, the cyst will be aspirated. Depending on where the pain originates, treatment may include analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and compresses.

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