Breast tenderness -- why it's been causing me so much grief!!

Hi there

I wrote a question yesterday regarding some pain/swelling in the area above my clavicle.

Luckily my GP has said it's nothing more than a very large cyst normally associated with the menstrual cycle. That got me thinking and so I found something that seems to make perfect sense to me.

Ok, so the cyst itself was quite large - large enough anyhow to cause me concern as I had NEVER experienced such a feeling of pressure or tenderness there before. That was what made me jump to the conclusion it could've been NHL (as Wikipedia has stated NHL and Hashimoto's is somewhat connected). But no luck with that as I would need to have other classic NHL symptoms such as night sweats, weight loss and swollen lymph glands in the neck/underarms/groin which I have none of. To be fair I didn't even think the lump itself was anywhere near my breast but the GP knows best and I'm glad I went as it's a pretty big cyst.

Incidentally I just looked into breast tenderness (mastodynia for the more clinical term that popped up on Wikipedia). Of course the pain/pressure/tenderness/swelling I get is cyclical, in other words it pops up in my menstrual cycle without fail. Sometimes not as bad, other times as bad as anything. This month it is pretty bad and so I thought, "hmm, well what exactly IS going on here? My period hasn't come and this pain is just...well, not unbearable but just bothersome!" I found this quote below in the paragraph regarding cyclical breast pain/tenderness, etc. that might be of useful information to anyone else with similar issues:

"Cyclical breast pain (cyclical mastalgia) is very often associated with fibrocystic breast changes or duct ectasia and believed to be caused by aberrations in dynamic

hormonal changes mainly involving prolactin response to thyrotropin."

Link for the full article on mastalgia is here if anyone wants further reading as it also includes non-cyclical breast pain, treatments for both types of pain and other points of reference:

Thyrotropin is of course TSH and this is the first time after taking a blood test that my TSH was through the roof. It stood at 22 (0.27 -- 4.2)

So I'm guessing the higher the TSH the more severe symptoms such as these become!

At least this puts my mind at rest even more.

So there you go! That's my take on it anyhow. The pain itself is more unprovoked but I'm not minding my breasts at this point in my cycle as they're larger. (I'm small chested!)

Best wishes to all

Blossom xxx


23 Replies

  • I was diagnosed with fibrocystic breasts years ago when I had hypo symptoms but was being told my thyroid function was normal. I've since learnt that fibrocystic breasts can be linked to iodine deficiency. What I've never been clear about though is whether it's purely a lack of iodine in the breast tissue or whether it's hypothyroidism, possibly due to iodine deficiency, that's the cause. It certainly improves with a sufficient dose of thyroxine.

  • Have you tried taking oil of evening primrose? Many women swear by it - I'm intolerant to it. You did not say if you were on thyroxine. They changed my brand of T4 from levo to eltroxin and oh boy did the trouble start again (the pill many years ago had such an adverse effect had to have much of the affected tissue removed and am now at that stage again but to a lesser degree) I can't run, play badminton, stopped zumba etc because of the dreadful tenderness and sore ness. Now battling with NHS to do something about it. Their medicine caused the problem they have a moral obligation & responsibility to fix it. But I do feel for you. Do try the Oil of E.

  • Hi, yes I am on Thyroxine. (50mcg from 25mcg). I start a 75mcg dose tomorrow. My nan takes oil of evening primrose as she has arthritis. I've now got pains in my thighs and I feel so heavy and cumbersome but I'm not even overweight - just feel a bit sort of...lethargic. I'm not sleeping very well either but I guess I can only wait until the Thyroxine works more (tomorrow will be my 4th week).

    I'm battling with NHS about my previous GP as they've left things so so late. They did a blood test in Nov 2011 which said my TSH was at 5.2 (0.27 -- 4.2) and didn't act on it after a retest came back normal. I change doctors and they tested my autoantibodies which were at 84 and a later test revealed my TSH to be at 22 (0.27 -- 4.2) with my FT4 at 10.9 (10 -- 23) I'm copying every single abnormal blood test from each GP and sending it to the PALS service but I'm not sure what I'll be achieving as I wrote a complaint letter to them three months ago and they never responded. Let me know how you get on with your own battle, we will win someday and somehow. Thanks for the suggestion of the Oil of E.


  • Hi. Update on proceedings. Saw a surgeon who referred me to pain clinic!!! GP was aghast. Then got letter to attend breast unit (yet another mammogram etc which i have refused) however, am seeing them next week so they can report even though we did have a long phone chat. It seems they will teach me to manage the pain.??? so complicated, so many other intrinsic things going on which is why I agreed to keep appointment. Will let you know the outcome. xxx

  • ...could also be oestrogen dominance. I had a benign cyst removed in my 30's - not knowing anything about the connection with thyroid. Just accepted painful breasts as part of the monthly deal. Almost another 30 years before Hashimotos was diagnosed - during which time lots of other bits and pieces were troublesome :-)

  • I agree with Marz, it could have to do with oestrogen dominance. You can buy progesterone cream and treat yourself. I got it from Biovea and it seem to be working. I am post menopausal but had HRT (oestrogen patch ) which I stopped in August last year. When we get older we produce less progesterone and, particularly when we are overweight we may still produce a lot os oestrogen.

    To have your sex hormones tested correctly it should really be through saliva testing and I don't think many health authorities does it . I haven't done it privately yet (it is expensive) but with my history it is very probable that I have oestrogen dominance. I also have cystic breasts, and keep on being sent to the breast clinic.

    good luck


  • Hi, yes it could be oestrogen dominance. I had breast problems going back a few years (I think when I was about 18 or 19) and it turned out to be a blocked milk duct. This is the first time my breast's ever been this bad. I guess it is just one of those things as you say. :)

  • ....I also had problems trying to breast feed my first baby - some 46 years ago. apparently that's another hypo symptom ! Heaven knows where I read that ! Take a look at the website and see if you have other relevant symptoms.

    Adrenals ? - they too could play their part !

  • Hi Marz, thanks for the link.

    Progesterone cream is worth looking into getting. Looking at the symptoms list I have some of them:

    Early menstruation onset -- on some occasions my periods come on the day I predict them but they can be a day or two early. When I go to my GP and they ask me if I have regular periods I do say I have them *every month*, which is true, but they may be a day or two out. They then deduce that I'm on a regular cycle, so I guess that I am regular.

    Fibrocystic breasts -- I don't usually tend to get fibrocystic breasts but of course this month is an exception - and they're not usually this bad!

    Lethargy -- I get days when I fall asleep in the afternoon and early evenings. I used to be a real night owl, staying up as late as 3am but now I can't even get past midnight.

    Joint pain -- I get intermittent pains in my hips and knees, also in my shins which is weird. Very diffuse pain as well.

    Headaches -- the only headaches I do get are when I wake up first thing in the morning, so I sleep an extra hour or so to make sure I get enough sleep. Most often that doesn't do it, although when I sleep for much shorter periods, i.e. from 10-30 minutes I feel much better than I would if I slept for more than an hour.

    Anger/irritability -- yes, I fall into this symptom category quite easily. I'm a nice person but I could be in a supermarket and if someone's rude to me then I don't hold back. Before I would just let it go but I don't have the patience to do so anymore. I'm also more irritable if it's cold/windy/wet/raining.

    Allergies -- I don't know if this would be an allergy or not, but most days I wake up with a blocked nose. It does go away eventually but I keep thinking it'll develop into a cold. I only get 1 or 2 colds a year, and I also sometimes get red spots on the side of my fingers. That's usually from using washing-up liquid.

    Cold hands/feet -- I suffer from Raynaud's and my previous GP made this diagnosis. However since they've fluffed up my hypo diagnosis I'm not so sure since this symptom could be to do with oestrogen dominance. I don't get this symptom anymore since the weather is more humid and I'm taking the T4, but I don't know if the T4 is contributing to this at all as I'm only 5 weeks in.

    Insomnia -- yes, I do wake up quite early in the morning. Most of the time I wake up around 3 or 5am and go back to sleep, wake up again at 6 and then just before 7 when my boyfriend gets up to go to work (I dread hearing the alarm clock so I try to wake up and turn it off before it goes off -- it gives me a throbbing headache if it sounds!!)

    Muscle pain -- I get pains, I'm guessing muscle pains, in the front of my thighs. I also get cramps in my calves when I do a lot of strenuous walking. I did get some cramps in them yesterday and I knew that if I stopped walking altogether and just stood still the pain would worsen so I just kept going and the pain went away on its own.

    Loss of esteem -- I'm not a very confident person to be honest. I was never popular at school, was picked on a lot and I had a traumatic experience at 15. Most of the girls at school were into fashion and make-up but I seemed to be the only one who wasn't into all of that, so I was singled out. I'm often always trying to improve myself and wondering how I look and when I do something clumsy or stupid I berate myself heavily for it. So loss of esteem is always something I've had.

    Slurred/slow speech -- sometimes I mix my words together and other times I talk really slow. I'll say something like "I don't.....know." Almost as if I'm still thinking about what to say even though I say it.

    Vertigo -- I don't get vertigo per se, but I get moments where I get blood rushes to the head after I stand from sitting down. Sometimes the throbbing gets to the backs of my eyes.

    That's about all I can think of for now, but yes, progesterone cream seems like a good bet.

    Thanks!! x

  • ...thanks for your reply. It sounds as if Progesterone Cream could be worth a try. Follow the instructions carefully. I think you may also consider giving your T4 treatment longer to work before embarking on the PC. Reading some of your symptoms ( well described ! ) I would also consider looking at Adrenals. Your sleep pattern points in that direction also the blood pressure changes on standing. If you find the T4 does not improve things you may then consider adding T3. I have read that T3 has a positive effect on the Adrenals which can become stressed when thyroid hormones are low. is a useful site and Paul Robinson is also on this forum.

    Of course the T4 should convert into T3 in the tissues of liver kidneys etc. but that is not always the case. So keep an eye on those results. Another good site where there is a page comparing thyroid v adrenals - very good.

    Stop the Thyroid Madness has an excellent website with information on Adrenals and there is a book by the same name. Worth a read. Dr Barry Durrant-Peatfields Book - The Thyroid and How to keep it Healthy also has good information on the Adrenals.

    So happy reading ! x :-)

  • Thanks for your reply and the links Marz.

    I might well look at the PC.

    The only thing that does concern me is that I might have to convince my doctor to put me on the T3 if it gets to that stage. Looking at adrenals is a good idea also but I guess that would mean that the sleep pattern problems and the hypotension upon standing points to adrenal fatigue, have I gotten that right?


    :) x

  • could be an indication...have a read and see what you think/feel..... :-) x

  • Hi, yes it could be oestrogen dominance. I had breast problems going back a few years (I think when I was about 18 or 19) and it turned out to be a blocked milk duct. This is the first time my breast's ever been this bad. I guess it is just one of those things as you say. :) I'm just glad it's nothing bad and that I went to put my mind at rest - even the GP said it was a pretty big cyst! I reckon because the Hashi's has been left and the whole thing dragged on for a whole year things have gotten worse for me symptom-wise. I'm thinking about restating my complaint with the NHS because I think my last previous GP's conduct about all of this is just beyond comprehension. :(

  • I'm surprised your GP didn't suggest aspirating the cyst. I've had probs in the past and this was the breast consultant's course of action. I did relieve the pressure, but it came back until I started taking 3000mg EP per day and that seemed to stop it.

  • Thank you for this info . I had the most awful time last year going back and forth the breast clinic worrying myself to death as they didnt know what the problem was . It was eventually discovered as a cyst . Even after it was aspirated I had pain but had recently started a low dose levo, (25mg) as I take Erfa, but my TSH was still too high according to the doc xx

  • Hi golden, no probs about the info!! Just glad to help when and where I can!

    I had breast problems going back a few years (I think when I was about 18 or 19) and it turned out to be a blocked milk duct. It was aspirated funnily enough during the biopsy as when they did it they took the whole thing - hurt like anything! This is the first time my breast's ever been this bad. I'm just glad it's nothing bad and that I went to the GP to put my mind at rest - even the GP said it was a pretty big cyst!

    I reckon because the Hashi's has been left and the whole thing has dragged on for a whole year things have gotten worse for me symptom-wise. I'm thinking about restating my complaint with the NHS because I think my last previous GP's conduct about all of this is just beyond comprehension. :(

    I've no doubt the T4 dose I take is working, but I guess it takes some time for the elevated TSH to have any effect on anything else in the body.


  • I am glad it was nothing serious, and thanks for posting this information.

    I also get monthly breast tenderness - just on one side. I recently started trying progesterone cream to help with my monthly migraines, and it has also helped with the breast tenderness too. There is certainly a lot of interaction between all the hormones - I believe oestrogen can affect thyroxine too. If only someone understood it all!!

  • Hi, yes I agree. I get breast tenderness on one side like yourself. I wouldn't be surprised if oestrogen does affect thyroxine. I've got a feeling that because the Hashi's has been left and the whole thing dragged on for a whole year things have gotten worse for me. I've started getting cloudy feelings in my head (as if my brain's floating in my skull) as well as the breast problems and pains in my legs and I'm getting so forgetful lately it's unreal. There's someone who understands it all I'm sure. xx

  • I had mastitis when I was in my early 30's which seemed to go away after taking antibiotics. I had my little boy 2 years and during breast feeding I noticed a lump. Gp referred me to hospital who did an ultrasound. It was confirmed that I have fibrosystic breasts. She said I didn't have 1 large area. I had lots and lots of little areas and there wasn't really much the could do. At various intervals during my monthly cycle I am aware of them more.

  • Hi Tuf5ty thanks for your response.

    Yes, my GP referred me for an ultrasound when I first had cysts in my breasts and when he did the biopsy he actually aspirated the whole thing. There's very little anything can be done with cysts like this unfortunately as you say but they're such a pain to have. I've only felt for 1 large one but my boyfriend has said one breast is lumpier than the other. And this is the only part of my cycle when I like my breasts as they're larger and make me look busty! :(

  • I'm HyPER but have just recently finished a strong course of antibiotics for mastitis. If freaked me out as although 28 I have no children and am not pregnant. I have read that women with thyroid problems are more likely to have issues with their boobs. I do remember when I used to have periods that my boobs would feel like bags of marbles, but were never painful. As if there are not enough problems with a duff thyroid :-)

  • Hi Granitecitygirl

    Yes, I can empathise as I'm also 28, have no children and not pregnant. I've had enough problems with my thyroid as it is - my previous GP told me I had a high TSH in Nov 2011 and didn't tell me what it meant so I had to find out for myself. They refused to retest me so I changed GPs. They suggested I have my thyroid autoantibodies checked (which came back high) and within three months my TSH was even higher than the first time. The Hashi's was left for so long and within that time I was rendered hypo - I can't believe a GP surgery could fluff up such a diagnosis all because they wouldn't keep testing my thyroid function or check for antibodies. Apparently they only checked for antibodies in "special cases". :o

  • Im one of those well stuffed birds, as my bf says. Charming term lol

    Im hypo, with hashimotos and have lymphs up neck and armpits and nodules on thyroid.

    My boobs of late have been more painful than ive known. I also have several smallish lumps appear, some come and go some are still hanging around. My GPs called them Lipomas. Many people have them and an are unaware of them. She also thought there was a connection to the thyroid. More tot he hypo than the hypers as reduced sweating in hypos and other complications often make diagnosis hard as the typical patterns are not present or are distorted by the thyroid.

    Wike says lipoma is a benign tumor composed of adipose tissue (body fat). It is the most common form of soft tissue tumor. Lipomas are soft to the touch, usually movable, and are generally painless, can be any size and usually form where there is fatty tissues. Breast, legs (women) abdomen etc. They can come and go and usually painless but if they lean on nerves will fire indicating pain.

    Unless very enlarged, in or near and organ impinging it or uncomforable they are left alone. If not surgery is used to remove them.

    Word of warning about Progesterone and the thyroid. It can make some people react badly to it, as in RED MIST RAGE. An uncontrollable anger that is both scary to witness and to be in it. I'm one who does in the extreme react to progesterone so Im never given it.

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