You can have breast pain at any age, but it’s less common after menopause than before menopause.
Most of the time, breast pain is not a sign of breast cancer or anything serious, especially when it’s the only symptom. But severe or persistent breast pain could mean you need to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Let’s take a look at some of the common causes of breast pain after menopause, remedies to try, and when it’s time to seek medical advice.
There are two main types of breast pain: cyclic and noncyclic.
Cyclic breast pain affects women who menstruate and may be related to hormonal fluctuations and fluid retention. Symptoms include:
- generalized breast pain
Symptoms occur in both breasts and sometimes the underarm areas as well. Symptoms improve at other points in the menstrual cycle. Cyclical mastalgia may worsen during perimenopause, but doesn’t occur after menopause.
Noncyclic breast pain has nothing to do with the menstrual cycle. If you have gone 12 months without a period, you’re postmenopausal — therefore, your breast pain is noncyclic. Symptoms may include:
Noncyclic mastalgia can happen in both breasts, but it’s more likely that your pain is in a specific area of one breast.
A number of factors can contribute to noncyclic breast pain after menopause. Some of these are:
Breast pain can sometimes be a side effect of medication like:
If you’re taking these medicines and have breast pain, don’t stop taking them until you speak with your doctor.
Large breasts and support problems
Large, heavy breasts can stretch ligaments and tissues, which can sometimes cause breast pain and tenderness. That can also cause pain in your shoulders, back, and neck. You might notice that the pain is worse when you’re physically active.
A bra that doesn’t provide enough support can also cause or aggravate these symptoms.
Any injury to your breast can cause temporary pain, tenderness, and swelling. It can be the result of a blow to your breast during physical activity or due to an accident.
You may also be dealing with the aftermath of a medical procedure such as breast biopsy or surgery. This type of pain should go away as your body heals.
Sometimes, the pain you feel in your breast is actually coming from somewhere else on your body. This is called extramammary breast pain, which can be caused by:
- inflammation of cartilage that connects the ribs to the breastbone (costochondritis)
- bone fracture
- pulled chest muscle
- arthritis in the neck or upper back
- shingles rash
Other warning signs of breast cancer may include:
- thickening or lump in your breast or under the arm
- new dimples on your skin
- pitting of the skin, giving it an orange peel look
- nipple discharge, inverted nipple
- swelling, redness
- change in size or shape of your breast
Problems with breast implants
Whether you just got breast implants or you had breast augmentation done years ago, things can go wrong. Breast pain can be a sign that scar tissue has formed too tightly around the implants, a condition called capsular contracture). Pain may also mean you have a ruptured implant.
- warm to the touch
Benign breast conditions
Cysts, fibrocystic changes, and other benign breast conditions can happen at any age, but are more likely to occur before menopause than after menopause. In addition to pain, you’re likely to have a lump or other changes to your breast.
In many causes of breast pain, the pain resolves without treatment. In the meantime, there are a few things you can try to ease pain.
- Use over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Try a topical pain reliever such as diclofenac.
- Try using a warm or cool compress.
- Wear a supportive sports bra, especially when you’re physically active.
- Get a professional bra fitting.
- Avoid underwire bras.
- Reduce caffeine and fat.
- Use evening primrose oil.
Breast pain isn’t always a sign of something serious. However, if you’re at all concerned, you should save yourself some worry and make an appointment with your doctor. This is especially true if you have a high risk of breast cancer.
Signs that warrant medical help
Signs that you should seek an immediate medical consultation include:
- severe breast pain for no obvious reason
- persistent or worsening pain, even with self-help measures
- pain that interferes with your quality of life
- suspected problems with your breast implants
Another warning sign is that pain is accompanied by other symptoms, including:
- swelling, redness, or warmth
- changes to the shape and size of your breast
- changes to the nipple, nipple discharge
- thickening or dimpled skin
- breast lumps or lumps under the arm
Diagnosing breast pain
Diagnosing the problem may involve:
Any further treatment depends on the diagnosis.
Breast pain is less common after menopause than it is before the big change. Most of the time, the cause is benign and breast pain resolves without treatment. There are also a few home remedies that can help soothe the pain.
Breast pain isn’t usually a sign of breast cancer or other serious condition, especially if pain is the only symptom. But do see your doctor right away if you have persistent pain, observe changes to your breast, or have other symptoms.
If breast pain is making it hard to function or you’re feeling worried, it’s worth having it checked out.