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Breast tenderness causes

Feeling heaviness in breasts that hurts when breasts are touched or palpated, experienced by women is known as “breast tenderness”. Almost all women experienced breast tenderness and swelling at some point during life and the causes of breast tenderness could be very different depending on age, hormonal status, health conditions and used methods of medications. In most cases breast tenderness is a result of women hormonal fluctuations. In most cases, breast tenderness causes are temporary as they are marked by limited periods of occurrences. At the same time the breast tenderness could become a reason for concern when the pain associated with breast tenderness causes persist and turn chronic.

Woman with breast tenderness

Breast tenderness symptoms

Breast tenderness symptoms mostly include:

  • swelling,
  • increased sensitivity to touch and pressure,
  • soreness,
  • aches and pain, especially when moving.

Breast tenderness causes

It is common for women to experience intense breast tenderness and swelling during pregnancy – it is a result of on-going dramatic hormonal changes during pregnancy as well as of fat building in breasts and increased blood flow to breasts. Breast tenderness very specific for early pregnancy and could be considered as pregnancy symptom.

Breastfeeding women also can experience breast tenderness – anything from discomfort to extreme pain. This pain is generally associated with the early stages of breast feeding and is usually correlated with the baby learning how to latch or with milk duct infection, known as mastitis.

Breast infection called “mastitis” often caused by clogged sebaceous glands or breast-feeding and always results in breast tenderness and swollen breasts. Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissues that causes the breast to swell and become sore. While breast tenderness and swelling may be the first signs of breast infection, a fever is likely to develop shortly.

Hormones are the most common cause of breast tenderness and swelling. In most cases breast tenderness is correlating with female hormones changes. Very often breast tenderness has a cyclic character. During the menstrual cycle breast tenderness can be changed – the breast is smallest on days 2-5, and then begins to enlarge, under the influence of estrogen and later progesterone and prolactin. Maximum breast tenderness is noted just before period.

At different periods of life females can have breast tenderness – during puberty, during premenstrual periods, during first trimester of pregnancy and during menopause. Girls who are nearing puberty, menopausal women and pregnant women can all expect some breast tenderness and swelling at odd times throughout the month.

At puberty, the female breast develops, under the influence of estrogen, progesterone, growth hormone, prolactin, insulin and probably thyroid hormone, parathyroid hormone and cortisol. This complex process typically begins between ages 8 to 14 and spans about 4 years.

Many women suffer from sore breasts when suffering from pre-menstrual syndrome, often starting a full week before the period begins. Some women find relief once their period starts, other women continue to suffer pain throughout their menstrual cycle.

Use hormonal treatments or hormonal contraception also can be a cause for breast tenderness. Hormonal medications like estrogen treatments or birth control pills will have the same unpredictable breast tenderness.

During menopause, the body experiences an unbalanced level of estrogen hormones that cause breast tenderness during menopause.
During perimenopause and during early stages of menopause often women mention breast tenderness including pain, heaviness and sensitivity to touch. These changes are caused by hormonal fluctuation. Breast tenderness and pain can create fear for breast cancer. Luckily, breast tenderness is rarely a symptom of breast cancer but in order to get reassurance you can go to your doctor for a mammogram. Lumps can develop in the milk glands and cause the condition fibrocystic breast disease.

Hormonal contraception or hormonal treatment
Breast tenderness is a common side effect of birth control pills. Some doctors could subscribe birth control pills for breast tenderness (depending on women hormones). If you are using birth control pills and have breast tenderness, better discuss it with your doctor and try to change the type of your pills.

Sometimes women need hormonal therapy including therapy with estrogens. Estrogen therapy is common for women going through menopause. It also can provoke breast tenderness.

Breast cysts can also develop breast tenderness. These liquid-filled sacks go unnoticed. However, tenderness and swelling may occur, particularly when multiple cysts appear. While most cysts are benign, it is still important to have the potential cyst examined for possible malignancy or fibrocystic condition. To determine whether or not you may have a breast cyst, consider the fact that discomfort experienced with cysts is noncyclical, meaning that it is unrelated to your menstrual cycle.

In general breast tumors are painless but they can develop breast tenderness and discomfort – the larger breast tumors get, the more likely women can experience breast swelling and tenderness. These fibroadenomas, as they are called, are typically found in premenopausal women under the age of 50 and can be treated and tested with a simple biopsy.

There is only one type of breast cancer that causes breast pain – it is so called “inflammatory breast cancer” which is pretty rare (1-2.5% of all breast cancer cases). Therefore, breast pain is an unlikely symptom of breast cancer. However, an advanced breast cancer with large tumors may push the breast tissue enough to cause breast tenderness and swelling. If this is a concern, it is important to visit your doctor immediately.


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