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(Breast Pain)

En Español (Spanish Version)


Mastalgia is breast pain. There are two types of mastalgia, cyclical and noncyclic. Cyclical breast pain is most often associated with menstrual periods. Noncyclic pain does not vary with the menstrual cycle.


Mastalgia can be caused by:

  • Hormonal changes associated with the menstrual cycle
  • Trauma to the breast
  • Arthritis in the chest cavity and neck

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.

The following factors are thought to increase the risk of mastalgia:

  • Relatively high hormone levels (estrogen and progesterone) of the second half of the menstrual cycle
  • History of arthritis
  • Irritation of cervical (neck) nerve roots

Cervical Nerve Roots

Cervical nerves

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.


Symptoms of mastalgia may include:

  • Pain in the breast area, ranging from minor discomfort to severe pain


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Breast cancer does not commonly cause pain. However, your doctor may also perform a mammogram.


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

Ruling Out Cancer

Worry of cancer can be the main concern associated with mastalgia. Performing a mammogram to rule out cancer as a cause can provide reassurance.


Topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) may reduce the pain associated with mastalgia. Also, toremifene (Fareston), which is used in the hormonal treatment of breast cancer, may help reduce cyclical mastalgia.


The best way to prevent mastalgia is to avoid trauma to the breast. Wearing a sports bra when exercising can also prevent breast pain and tenderness.


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

The National Women's Health Information Center


Canadian Women's Health Network

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada


Mastalgia. DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed May 21, 2007.

Mastalgia and breast lumps: breast disorders. Merck Manual Professional website. Available at: Accessed May 21, 2007.

Last reviewed April 2008 by Ganson Purcell Jr., MD, FACOG, FACPE

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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