Menopause is the “gift” that keeps on giving. With 34 associated symptoms that can easily be ascribed to a myriad of other health conditions, it can be impossible to know if what you’re experiencing is tied to menopause without a hormone test. Each week this series will break down symptoms to empower women to take back control of their health and enjoy some relief.
For women, breast soreness becomes a fact of life as soon as we hit puberty. Cyclic Mastalgia, aka hormonal breast tenderness, starts with the beginning of our menstrual cycle, then becomes an indication of pregnancy, and as we age, it can also be tied to menopause. However, with the lingering fear of breast cancer on every woman’s mind, noticeable physical changes to our breasts accompanied by pain can easily spark concern. Here’s what to know about this extra tender topic.
What Causes Menopausal Breast Soreness?
The hormone rollercoaster is once again to blame. Estrogen and progesterone fluctuations can affect breast tissue which results in tenderness. But this can increase during perimenopause due to wider hormonal swings. As your cycle becomes more unpredictable in the perimenopause phase, so can the timing of this soreness making unexpected breast pain alarming at times. Not to mention water retention related to our cycle can also contribute to the discomfort.
How Do I Know My Breast Soreness is Menopause Related?
Differentiating menopause-related breast soreness from other causes can be challenging, but it will likely feel different from the soreness you may have felt at other times in your life. Menstrual breast pain usually feels like a dull ache in both breasts and occurs right before your period. You’re more likely to feel burning or soreness if it’s tied to perimenopause, and you may feel it in one breast or both.
Not all women experience breast discomfort in the same way. The pain may feel sharp, stabbing, or throbbing. So if it feels different than typical PMS, you’re between the ages of 45 and 55, and experiencing other aspects of the transition such as hot flashes, then you’re likely just checking one more box on the menopause bucket list.
What Else Causes Breast Soreness?
To start, breast pain is rarely a symptom of cancer. Regardless, it's essential to rule out this possibility, especially if you have other risk factors or unusual symptoms. For instance, infections and cysts within the breast tissue can be painful and require evaluation and treatment by a healthcare provider. Also, certain prescription medications, most commonly cardiovascular and psychiatric, can also lead to breast discomfort.
What Are My Treatment Options?
Managing menopause-related breast soreness often involves making lifestyle adjustments and finding comfort measures such as:
When Should I See A Doctor?
Although menopause-related breast soreness is often a temporary and manageable issue, it’s essential to consult a doctor if soreness persists, there are new or unusual symptoms including a change of shape or lumps, or you have a family history of breast cancer. Either way, conducting self-exams should be a part of your preventive health routine, as well as annual mammograms screenings as recommended by the American Cancer Society.
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