An image-rich educational review of breast pain


Advocate Lutheran General Hospital


Breast pain is extremely common, occurring in 70% to 80% of women. Most cases of breast pain are from physiologic or benign causes, and patients should be reassured and offered treatment strategies to alleviate symptoms, often without diagnostic imaging. A complete clinical history and physical examination is key for distinguishing intrinsic breast pain from extramammary pain. Breast pain without other suspicious symptoms and with a negative history and physical examination result is rarely associated with malignancy, although it is a common reason for women to undergo diagnostic imaging. When breast imaging is indicated, guidelines according to the American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria should be followed as to whether mammography, US, or both are recommended. This review article summarizes the initial clinical evaluation of breast pain and evidence-based guidelines for imaging. Additionally, the article reviews cyclical and noncyclical breast pain and provides an image-rich discussion of the imaging presentation and management of benign and malignant breast pain etiologies.

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