The Margie Petersen Breast Center exemplifies the importance of prompt and thorough evaluation. It provides patients with access to a multidisciplinary team of experts for comprehensive assessment and personalized care. By prioritizing efficiency and expertise, we ensure that women receive timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment for all types of breast conditions.

Evaluation of breast pain is important to determine if the pain is due to physiological changes related to hormonal fluctuation or to a pathological process such as breast cancer.

How common is Breast Pain?

Breast pain is one of the most common complaints for women. Nearly 70% of women have experienced breast pain at some point in their life. Also known as mastalgia, breast pain can occur for various reasons, ranging from hormonal fluctuations to underlying medical conditions. The sensation of breast pain can vary from mild discomfort to severe tenderness, and it may be localized in one or both breasts. Understanding the causes and appropriate treatments for breast pain is crucial for women’s health and well-being. Fortunately, the majority of breast pain is not related to breast cancer. Breast pain can involve the nipple and radiate to the armpit. Because there is often no easy remedy, breast pain can be very unsettling for patients.

What is the role of hormones with breast pain?

Hormonal changes play a significant role in breast pain, particularly during menstrual cycles. While breast pain is often benign and related to hormonal changes, it’s essential to rule out other potential causes. Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels can lead to breast tenderness and swelling. This type of breast pain typically occurs in the days leading up to menstruation and subsides once the period begins. Non-cyclical mastalgia, on the other hand, is not related to the menstrual cycle and may be caused by factors such as trauma, medications, or underlying medical conditions.

When is a complete evaluation recommended?

Breast pain - evaluation and education
Evaluation of breast pain begins during your first evaluation visit.

Breast pain that is more localized, which presents with an enlarging mass, associated skin changes, or occurs in women after menopause generally warrants a complete evaluation. This includes a clinical breast exam with imaging such as mammography and ultrasound. If nothing is visible on the mammogram or ultrasound, an MRI may be recommended. Women find comfort in learning how breast pain, in the absence of findings during the clinical exam or diagnostic imaging, is often associated with benign (noncancerous) causes. Regular breast screenings, such as mammograms and clinical breast exams, play a crucial role in early detection and diagnosis because your prior evaluations can be easily compared to the changes that may occur over time.

Other possibilities for breast pain

Additionally, breast pain may be considered extramammary pain, when the pain is caused by the chest wall muscles or nerve injury rather than the breasts. Musculoskeletal issues, such as muscle strain or injury to the chest wall, can cause discomfort that is perceived as breast pain. Women with fibrocystic changes can also have breast pain because hormonal stimulation stimulates cyst growth in the breasts and causes the breast tissue to retain water and swell.

Stress, which can alter hormone levels, has also been shown to be a cause of breast pain. Proper diagnosis and treatment often require a comprehensive evaluation by healthcare professionals to determine the underlying cause of the pain. Factors that increase the local inflammatory environment of the breast, such as trauma or scarring, can also cause pain. Learn more about breast-related conditions and symptoms via our Breast Webinars.

What can I do to minimize and avoid breast pain?

Breast pain - understanding your condition
There are many proactive measures you can take to help minimize breast pain.
  • Wear an appropriate-fitting, supportive bra (wearing this at night can also help decrease pain). Wear a sports bra while exercising.
  • Avoid, or reduce to a minimum, caffeine intake (coffee, tea, chocolate, soft drinks).
  • Eat a low-fat, high-complex carbohydrate diet.
  • Avoid dairy for a trial period to assess the impact on pain.
  • Avoid smoking and tobacco products.
  • Avoid excess sodium/salt intake (this increases fluid retention in tissue).
  • Evening primrose oil (1000 mg daily) – can be obtained over the counter.
  • Supplement with Vitamin E (400 iu daily).
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or NSAID medications, both oral and topical, can help decrease breast pain.
  • Apply a warm or cold compress intermittently to the affected breast(s) to reduce pain.
  • Gentle massage of the area can aid in relief.
  • Prescriptive medications are available if breast pain cannot be relieved by supplemental treatments. Speak to your provider about options that would work for you.
  • Speak to your provider regarding a decrease in your oral contraception or hormone replacement dosage.
  • Try relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, massage, or mindfulness.

With a highly experienced and multidisciplinary team of experts, the Margie Petersen Breast Center offers rapid evaluation services, ensuring timely diagnosis and treatment for patients. By combining expertise from various medical disciplines, we can accurately diagnose and develop personalized treatment plans for a wide range of breast conditions. This streamlined approach allows for access to one or more specialists, providing you critical information all within a single day.


Contact the Margie Petersen Breast Center

Margie Petersen Breast Team
The Margie Petersen Breast Center Team

The Margie Petersen Breast Center at Providence Saint John’s Health Center is widely renown for its outstanding and compassionate patient care, expert surgical and medical team, and ability to fully evaluate any breast condition in one day.

Meet Our Breast Health Experts

The Breast Health Clinic can be reached at (310) 582-7209. If you have questions regarding a new symptom or want to make an appointment for evaluation please call and a staff member will assist with navigating you in the right direction.

Schedule an Appointment For more information