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Can Menopause Cause Breast Tenderness?

Illustration of nude woman.

It can happen at any time. A sharp, burning—and thankfully, brief—pain in one or both of your breasts. It’s a common symptom of peri-menopause. Read on for relief.

"Every woman experiences menopause in her own unique way, with her own distinct set of symptoms."

Breast pain (aka ‘mastodynia’ or ‘mastalgia’ in medical terms) during peri-menopause is unpredictable, and totally different from the breast discomfort you’ve had in the past. Is breast tenderness a symptom of menopause? Not necessarily. “It’s not the generalized achy tenderness you may have experienced before, which is tied to your menstrual cycle,” says Kourtney Sims, M.D., a board-certified integrative gynecologist based in Houston, TX, and a certified member of the North American Menopause Society. “Peri-menopausal breast pain tends to be sharper and deeper. It’s a kind of a stabbing pain in one or both breasts as opposed to an allover soreness and swelling that’s associated with your cycle,” says Dr. Sims, who is also Phenology’s Chief Medical Advisor “This specific peri-menopausal sensation tends to be random and doesn’t last more than a few minutes.”

Woman with open shirt; breast painted pink.

Why is this happening? It’s all about the upheaval of hormones. First, let’s get the timeline of menopause straight. The average age of menopause is 51, and peri-menopause is the period of time that leads to it, which usually lasts five to seven years on average. “Peri-menopause is when the reproductive hormones progesterone and estrogen go into a slow decline, which is why you may experience so many new and different sensations and symptoms, from hot flashes to irregular periods and breast pain,” says Dr. Sims. It’s like puberty, the years when the reproductive hormones ramp up. In this case, the hormones are slowing down. Like puberty, the process differs for everybody. “Every woman experiences menopause in her own unique way, with her own distinct set of symptoms.”The bottom (or, more appropriately, top) line. “If you’re noticing changes in your body, pay a visit to your doctor to get checked out,” advises Sims. “If you feel breast pain, or lumpiness, or anything out of the ordinary, you want to run any questions by your OB/GYN, have a clinical breast exam, get a mammogram and any necessary tests to make sure you have the all clear.”

What you can do to ease your breast tenderness symptoms. Decreasing your intake of caffeine and chocolate (it contains caffeine) can help mitigate breast tenderness. “Caffeine can exacerbate some of the hormonal changes in the breast tissue and trigger pain episodes,” says Dr. Sims. “Taking vitamin E or evening primrose oil supplements, which have omega-6 fatty acids, may minimize pain for some women. You can also massage on evening primrose oil, which has been shown in some observational studies to help alleviate pain. Because these episodes tend to be brief and random, an OTC pain reliever can only go so far, so I prefer to prescribe therapeutics that are lifestyle-related in order to help prevent discomfort.”Bonus good advice. Buy a better bra. “Getting fitted for a supportive bra is helpful because it decreases tension on the ligaments in your breasts, and adds slight compression that helps ease discomfort.” Moreover, a good bra supports the bigger breasts you may have also developed in peri-menopause and can help prevent sagging, which in turn can ease breast pain.

For more tips on how to ease menopause breast tenderness, check out our new Phenology app.

Gina Way
Gina Way is a writer and editor specializing in beauty, health, and lifestyle content. Her work—from beauty features to celebrity interviews—has been featured in Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, O The Oprah Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple, and Cosmopolitan, among others. She also writes digital content for The Cut, Well + Good, Refinery 29, and Vogue.

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