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Sue asked...

My breasts ache and are very tender.

I am 47 years old and pre-menopausal, I have normal periods but I am finding that in between, for several weeks sometimes my breasts ache and are very tender.

The pain always disappears about a week before my period starts. This has started happening in the last 6 months - is it normal and is there anything I should be watching out for?

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The answer

Fluctuating hormone levels normally account for most premenstrual breast swelling and tenderness. Your hormones rise and fall during a normal menstrual cycle but the timing of the hormone changes vary for each woman. Estrogen causes the breast ducts to enlarge and progesterone causes the milk glands to swell, both these events may cause breast tenderness and swelling typically between days 14 and 28 of your menstrual cycle. Our hormone levels start to change the older we become; this can be checked by having a blood test at your GP practice.

While most premenstrual breast pain and swelling is generally harmless, sudden or worrisome breast changes should be discussed with your doctor as these could be warning signs of infection or other medical conditions. Things to look out for are:

  • You have new, unusual, or changing lumps in breast tissue.
  • You have one-sided (unilateral) lumps in breast tissue.
  • You do not know how to properly perform a breast self-examination.
  • You are a woman, age 40 or older, and have never had a screening mammogram.
  • You have discharge from your nipple, especially if it is a bloody or brown discharge.
  • Your symptoms are interfering with your ability to sleep, and diet changes and exercise have not helped.

I hope that this answers you question and if we can be of any further assistance please phone the Health at Hand medical information help line on 0800 003 004.

Answered by Health at Hand nurses.


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