Banner image

Premenstrual breast changes

Premenstrual tenderness and swelling of the breasts; Breast tenderness - premenstrual; Breast swelling - premenstrual

Find

Learn More

Causes

Hormone changes during the menstrual cycle likely lead to breast swelling. More estrogen is made early in the cycle and it peaks just before mid-cycle. This causes enlargement of the breast ducts.The amount of progesterone peaks near the 21st day (in a 28-day cycle). This causes growth of the breast lobules (milk glands).

Premenstrual breast swelling is often linked with:

Premenstrual breast tenderness and swelling probably occur to some degree in nearly all women. More severe symptoms may occur in many women during their childbearing years.The rate may be lower in women taking birth control pills.

Risk factors may include:

  • Family history
  • High-fat diet
  • Too much caffeine

Considerations

Symptoms of premenstrual breast tenderness may range from mild to severe. Symptoms usually:

  • Are most severe just before each menstrual period
  • Improve during or right after the menstrual period

Breast tissue may have a dense, bumpy, "cobblestone" feel to the fingers. This feel is usually more in the outer areas. There may also be an off and on or ongoing sense of breast fullness with dull, heavy pain, and tenderness.

Definition

Premenstrual swelling and tenderness of both breasts occurs during the second half of the menstrual cycle.

Home Care

Self-care tips:

  • Eat a lower fat diet.
  • Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, and chocolate).
  • Avoid salt 1 to 2 weeks before your period starts.
  • Get vigorous exercise every day.
  • Wear a well-fitting bra day and night to provide good breast support.

You should practice breast awareness. Do check your breasts for changes at regular intervals.

The effectiveness of vitamin E, vitamin B6, and herbal preparations such as evening primrose oil are somewhat controversial. This should be discussed with your health care provider.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider will take your medical history and do a physical examination. The provider will check for breast lumps, and will note the qualities of the lump (firm, soft, smooth, bumpy, and so on).

A mammogram or breast ultrasound may be done. These tests will evaluate any abnormal finding on a breast exam. If a lump is found that is not clearly benign, you may need a breast biopsy.

These medicines from your provider may reduce or eliminate symptoms:

  • Injections or shots that contain the hormone progestin (Depoprovera). A single shot works for up to 90 days. These injections are given into the muscles of the upper arm or buttocks. They relieve symptoms by stopping menstrual periods.
  • Birth control pills.
  • Diuretics (water pills) taken before your menstrual period. These pills may reduce breast swelling and tenderness.
  • Danazol may be used in severe cases. Danazol is a manmade androgen (male hormone). If this does not work for you, other medicines may be prescribed.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you:

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

Review Date: 5/21/2016
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

ADAM QualityA.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 9-1-1 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only—they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-2010 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.