Clinical Management of Breast Pain: A Review

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Breast pain (mastalgia) is a common cause of anxiety among women and frequently leads to a primary care clinic for consultation. Fortunately, mild premenstrual breast discomfort lasting for 1 to 4 days can be considered “normal.” However, moderate-to-severe breast pain lasting over 5 days can interfere with usual activities, lead to unnecessary medical tests, and potentially invite the use of ineffective, occasionally harmful medications. Despite the severity of some patients’ symptoms, mastalgia is still considered a trivial complaint by many physicians; often it is felt to be psychological in nature. Careful evaluation to rule out breast cancer and reassure the patient is enough to make the pain resolve in most cases. In a few patients, however, mastalgia is severe enough to deserve further evaluation and treatment. Overall, 92% of patients with cyclical mastalgia (CM) and 64% with noncyclical mastalgia (NCM) can obtain relief of their pain with the judicious use of several available therapies.Target Audience: Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Family PhysiciansLearning Objectives: After completion of this article, the reader will be able to define the prevalence, classification, and natural history of mastalgia; to summarize the most likely potential theories of the etiology of mastalgia; and to outline potential management strategies.

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