Breast Pain – Cyclic and Noncyclic

The most common breast pain is cyclic pain. It is termed cyclic because the pain corresponds with your menstrual cycle changes. This pain caused by the fluctuations of your female hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin. Cyclic pain begins in the ovaries and increases until menstruation, which relieves the degree of pain. Usually both breast are involved, but occasionally you will feel more pain in one breast.

The Main cause of cyclic pain is the response of the breasts to the body’s hormones. However, other factors may increase this pain. Contribution factor for increased pain in some women are caffeine products, high sodium diets, and high fat diets.


•Wear a supportive bra (avoid under wire), especially during strenuous exercise
•Eliminate caffeine i.e. coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate
•Restrict the use of salt and sugar 1 week before your menstrual cycle
•Exercise regularly at least 2 hours per week
•Low fat diet
•Limit some of the foods that may contribute to PMS symptoms as they produce arachidonic acid i.e. certain cheese and nuts, mushrooms, wine, and bananas
•Vitamin E – 200 IU’s per day

✱ Some or all of the above mentioned suggestion many help. Try one at a time, and if something alleviates the breast tenderness, there is no need to try the other suggestions.



This pain differs from cyclic pain in that it has no relationship to the menstrual cycle. The pain may be continuous, or it many only occur from time to time. The pain is usually localized to a specific area in one breast and is described as a sharp, stabbing or burning sensation. Noncyclic pain has been linked to fluid filled cysts, fibroadenomas, duct ectasia, mastitis, injury and breast abscesses as possible causes. All these conditions are benign changes in the breast, but do need intervention by your referring physician. A physical exam usually identifies these non cancerous diseases as can a mammogram or ultrasound.

Breast Pain that Requires Immediate Follow-Up

Meet with your referring physician to discuss:

•Lump changes in the breast tissue that you can feel or see, with or without nipple to start discharge
•Signs and symptoms of infection i.e. redness, warmth, throbbing, nipple discharge
•Pain that has increased in frequency or become more painful over time

✱ Breast pain is usually associated with a benign cause and is rarely associated with breast cancer. Always talk with your referring physician about any change in the way your breast feel or look to ensure that the appropriate course of action is taken. Educating yourself about your breasts will decrease your anxiety and minimize the chance that a serious situation will be overlooked.

Written By M.D. Kelly McAleese.
Dr. Kelly McAleese is a Breast Imaging Radiologist
and the Medical Director of The Women’s Imaging Center


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The Women’s Imaging Center is proud to announce that we have added 3D Tomosynthesis Mammography at our Denver/Cherry Creek location. Our other locations in Lakewood, Littleton and Westminster/Arvada all use the highest rated digital mammography systems, Hologic Dimensions and Selenia. Our main scheduling number remains 303-321-CARE (2273) for all our locations. The Women’s Imaging Center is committed to providing individualized, innovative, state-of-the-art healthcare to women.

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