Suffering with breast pain?
Breast pain (mastalgia) is a very common complaint among women, affecting up to 60-70%. In a large study of 2,400 women during a 10-year period, pain was the most common breast symptom, accounting for 47% of breast-related medical visits. The pain can be either cyclical or noncyclical.
Cyclical breast pain or tenderness, is the most common affecting 40% of women and is thought to be a result of hormonal changes throughout the menstrual cycle.
Noncyclical breast pain is unrelated to the menstrual cycle and may be either constant or intermittent and is usually localized affecting one breast, although it may spread across both breasts, and most often effects menopausal women. Some of the causes of noncyclical breast pain may include breast cysts, breast trauma or prior breast surgery. Sometimes the pain actually originates from the chest wall, ribcage or heart and radiates into the breast.
Women mistakenly assume that breast pain is a sign of cancer. Breast pain is rarely a symptom of breast cancer and most times is the result of a noncancerous breast condition. In 2-7% of women, localized, persistent breast pain may be associated with breast cancer and should be evaluated by a doctor. It is estimated that about 80% of breast cancers are estrogen-receptor positive. Estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer describes a type of breast cancer that needs estrogen to grow, and may stop growing or die when treated with substances that block the binding and actions of estrogen.
New Supplement May Help To Lower Risk A recent Health Canada approved, double-blind,placebo-controlled clinical trial, including 47 premenopausal and 49 postmenopausal women, was recently completed on a supplement sold as femMED Breast Health. The women were divided into treatment and placebo groups, with the treatment group receiving the femMED Breast Health supplement.
At the completion of the study it was found that those women who had taken the femMED Breast Health supplement had reduced their risk by significantly increasing the estrogen C-2 hydroxylation in their urine. This result was seen for both pre and postmenopausal women. Studies have found that 2 specific metabolites of estrogen metabolism affect breast cancer susceptibility. As urinary levels of 2 hydroxyestrone (2-OHE) increase and levels of 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone decrease (16α-OHE), the risk for breast cancer decreases.
Maggie Laidlaw, PhD, the lead investigator of the study said, “We were amazed to see a statistically significant 57% reduction in this ratio in the women in our trial. In summary, we believe that this is the first natural health product to illustrate the possibility of beneficially affecting estrogen metabolism in a variety of ways.
Cyclical breast pain is most commonly associated with fluctuating hormone levels and often decreases or disappears with pregnancyormenopause.
Cyclical breast pain usually occurs in premenopausal women, although it can sometimes occur in postmenopausal women as well.
During the second half of the cycle, estrogen and progesterone stimulate the breast to swell and become lumpier and often tender which is why many women complain of breast tenderness 5 days prior to menstruation. The pain usually affects both breasts and disappears during or after menstruation. Some women may experience breast pain when they are ovulating as well as at the beginning of pregnancy. This is normal and due to fluctuating hormone levels. Once women enter the years leading up to menopause, (perimenopause) their hormones begin to fluctuate more often, resulting in more frequent breast pain.
Certain hormonal medications, including some infertility treatments, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and oral contraceptives, may also cause breast pain.
Certain hormonal medications, including some infertility treatments, HRT and oral contraceptives, may also cause breast pain. This is a possible side effect of the estrogen and progesterone found in these hormonal medications. It is estimated as many as 30% of women on HRT experience breast tenderness. An imbalance of fatty acids may also make the breasts more sensitive to circulating hormones including those found in hormonal medications. Breast pain can also be associated with prescribed antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, such as Prozac and Zoloft.
Treatments for breast pain are based on trying to establish the cause, although much of the time, this is not always possible. Women should keep track of their breast pain to determine whether it is cyclical or noncyclical, occurring in both breasts or just one, the severity of the pain and the presence of any other symptoms such as a breast lump, rash or nipple discharge. Women should consult a doctor if breast pain persists daily for more than a couple of weeks, is localized to one specific area of the breast or if the pain is becoming worse.
If the pain is cyclical there are some lifestyle modifications that women can take to reduce breast tenderness.
• Limit or eliminate caffeine.
• Reduce dietary fat to 15% or less.
• Try a cold compress such as a bag of frozen vegetables. Never place ice directly on skin.
• Try to engage in relaxing activities. Stress increases the fluctuation of hormone levels.
• Alcohol can affect hormone metabolism. It should be minimized or avoided completely.
• Aim for 30 minutes to one hour of moderate intensity activity daily.
• Consider a supplement like femMED Breast Health that has been clinically tested.