If you haven’t heard, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month! After all, it’s something to talk about—especially among us perimenopausal and menopausal gals.
According to the American Cancer Society, this year in the United States alone, about 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed, most of them in menopausal women. Consider this: While a 30-year-old woman’s risk of developing breast cancer in the next 10 years is 1 in 227, for a 60-year-old woman, that risk is 1 in 28, according to the National Cancer Institute.
But breast health—especially during menopause—is about more than cancer prevention. Why? Simply put, our breasts operate on hormones. As you’ve probably noticed, for the past few decades, your breasts have changed right along with your menstrual cycle. Maybe they have been tender to the touch right before your period; maybe they have seen their fair share of lumps come and go. Whatever your symptoms, hormones have probably been to blame.
So now, come perimenopause and menopause time, those hormonal ebbs and flows can become a veritable rollercoaster ride. That’s why about one third of women experience tender breasts in early perimenopause, according to the National Women’s Health Resource Center. As you near your last period, extra fluid in your breasts can make them feel more tender, lumpy, or swollen than before, and without a normal cycle to count on, it becomes pretty much impossible to know when those breasts of yours are going to start throbbing, according to the National Cancer Institute. What’s more, without regular estrogen supply, your breasts’ tissues can become dehydrated, inelastic, shrink, and lose their shape, according to John Hopkins Medicine. Hello, sagging breasts!
Luckily, they don’t have to hurt! Check out these three treatment options for breast pain during perimenopause and menopause:
One culprit of perimenopausal breast pain: estrogen peeks. That’s right, even as your estrogen levels take a nosedive toward menopause, they can periodically increase. Progesterone treatments can keep these estrogen increases from over stimulating the breasts and causing discomfort, according to Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, Administrative Director of the Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center. If you’re still menstruating (even haphazardly), progesterone treatment is typically prescribed for use during only a certain portion of the cycle, usually for about six months, she says.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Combination estrogen/progesterone therapy may relieve breast tenderness in women who experience bad-breast symptoms prior to starting hormone therapy, according to Shockney. Remember, though, that hormone replacement therapy may increase breast tenderness in women who didn’t have it to start with.
Not into meds? Try primrose oil. “This oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce the inflammation associated with breast swelling and tenderness,” Shockney writes. Just follow the directions listed on the back of the bottle. Vitamin B and E supplements can also help reduce breast inflammation—and pain, she says.
Ladies, treat your breasts friends right and celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month with awareness of your breast health. Get the breast help you need and deserve.
Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT!