Pain is one of the most common breast symptoms experienced by women. It can be severe enough to interfere with usual daily activities, but the etiology and optimal treatment remain undefined. Breast pain is typically approached according to its classification as cyclic mastalgia, noncyclic mastalgia, and extramammary (nonbreast) pain. Cyclic mastalgia is breast pain that has a clear relationship to the menstrual cycle. Noncyclic mastalgia may be constant or intermittent but is not associated with the menstrual cycle and often occurs after menopause. Extramammary pain arises from the chest wall or other sources and is interpreted as having a cause within the breast. The risk of cancer in a woman presenting with breast pain as her only symptom is extremely low. After appropriate clinical evaluation, most patients with breast pain respond favorably to a combination of reassurance and nonpharmacological measures. The medications danazol, tamoxifen, and bromocriptine are effective; however, the potentially serious adverse effects of these medications limit their use to selected patients with severe, sustained breast pain. The status of other therapeutic strategies and directions for future research are discussed.
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