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You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Breast pain isn’t just a menstrual complaint

Although menopause eliminates the breast pain and swelling associated with menstrual periods, that doesn't mean that breast pain disappears forever, reports the July issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

Breast pain unrelated to the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle can raise fears of breast cancer—at any age. Fortunately, cancer is seldom the cause. Harvard Women’s Health Watch says that noncyclical breast pain is more likely a symptom of one of these conditions:

  • Infection of the breast or an abscess, which can also cause fever and breast swelling, redness, and tenderness.
  • Injury. Any trauma to the breast can cause localized pain that may last for weeks or months.
  • Medications. Apart from hormone drugs, the most common medications to cause breast pain are cardiovascular and psychiatric medications.
  • Support problems. Large breasts may stretch ligaments and tissues, causing pain in the shoulders, back, neck, and breasts.
  • Conditions outside the breast. Strain in the muscles near the breast, inflammation of the cartilage that joins the ribs to the breastbone, connective tissue diseases, arthritis, or shingles can all cause breast pain. Occasionally, heart disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or lung problems may be felt as breast pain.

Harvard Women’s Health Watch reports that treatments include ice packs, warm compresses, massage, and occasional use of pain relievers. Many women report relief from avoiding nicotine and caffeine. Some research has shown that a very-low-fat diet (15%–20% of daily calories from fat) can reduce breast tenderness and swelling.

There’s also some evidence that evening primrose oil and fish oil supplements may provide some relief. Three medications — danazol, tamoxifen, and bromocriptine — have been shown to relieve breast pain, but these drugs can cause serious side effects.

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About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.