Menopause

Breast Tenderness During Menopause

mature woman sitting on bath tub smiling and looking in distance

As women enter and progress through the milestone of menopause, tenderness in their breasts can become a common occurrence. While most attribute this discomfort to menstruation, it may actually be due to other underlying factors that coincide with the menopausal transition. It’s understandable why symptoms involving breast health often cause alarm – but don’t fret. Such pain is rarely an indication of cancerous cells; however, always consult your doctor if you have any concerns or find lumps/notice changes in appearance or nipple discharge.

What are the different types of breast tenderness?

Your breast tenderness could be classified into four distinct cycles. Each of these has its own unique set of symptoms and effects, so understanding them is crucial for managing your discomfort. Identifying the cycle you are in can help bring relief to a sometimes uncomfortable situation.

  • Cyclical – experiences of dull to heavy and even aching sensations. This kind of discomfort is often linked with hormone levels in pre-menopausal or perimenopausal stages – as the menstrual cycle approaches its peak point, you may find yourself feeling an increasing level of pain in both breasts.
  • Non-cyclical – after menopause, some women may experience unusual sensations in the breasts, ranging from slight soreness to a burning feeling. These non-hormonal bouts of breast pain can be localized or cover wider areas and vary between fleeting intensity or persistent discomfort.
  • Extramammary – the area around your chest, often referred to as the “chest wall”, can be a source of pain that is entirely unrelated to anything happening inside or on top of it. This type of discomfort may stem from injuries in and around your ribs, torn muscles in either shoulder or chest walls and even inflammation within the costal cartilage.
  • Costochondritis – a painful condition that can spread from the rib area to your chest. This irritation of the costal cartilage could be due to external forces such as trauma, over-exertion or coughing up a storm, plus many other causes.

What is breast tenderness and its main causes?

Breast pain is an issue that many women experience throughout their lifetime, with up to 70% feeling it at some point. Mastalgia is the clinical term for this condition – a cyclic or non-cyclical affliction which can be caused by hormonal imbalances and changes in hormone levels. This discomfort may spread through both breasts, or just one breast or part of one, as well as appearing around the armpit and down the inside arm, generally accompanied by hot tenderness when touched.

Possible causes of mastalgia include:

  • Psychological factors such as anxiety and depression.
  • Insufficient breast tissue support (unsupportive or ill-fitting bras).
  • Hormone replacement therapy – certain dosages may increase sensitivity around the chest area.
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Caffeine

As you traverse through menopause, varying levels of oestrogen and progesterone can cause all sorts of body changes, including uncomfortable breast tenderness. Oestrogen increases while progesterone decreases; this imbalance in hormones is thought to be a contributing factor to the discomfort felt.

Treatment and home remedies for Menopause breast tenderness

There are a variety of treatments available to help alleviate menopausal breast pain. OTC medications like ibuprofen can make all the difference, while hormone replacement therapy tailored specifically for you may also be necessary in some cases. But prevention is key – steering clear of caffeine and opting for low-saturated fat meals has been linked to reducing estrogen levels (and therefore potentially decreasing sensitive breasts).

Other remedies and lifestyle factors that may help sore breasts include:

  • Wearing supportive and comfortable bras
  • Regular exercise
  • Warm compresses
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Taking hot showers
  • Reducing caffeine intake
  • Drinking more water

As women approach menopause, breast tenderness may be an expected symptom. The size and shape of the breast can also change during this time. While it is unlikely that discomfort in your chest area signals a potential issue with cancer, please seek medical advice if accompanied by other symptoms or before taking any OTC anti-inflammatories to prevent interactions between medications.

Conclusion

Hormonal changes often accompany the onset of menopause and can contribute to breast tenderness. Keep an eye on your symptoms, but don’t let them cause you undue stress- if they persist for more than a week or so, it might be time to pay your gynaecologist a visit and have a discussion about managing this new chapter in life.

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