July 14, 2008

Tests Haven’t Shown Cause for Woman’s Breast Pain in Left Side


Dear Dr. Gott: I am a 77-year-old female. I suffer every day with pain behind the left side of my breast. I have had an EKG, two stress tests, an echocardiogram, a chest X-ray, a mammogram and a breathing test. All the chest and heart tests were normal, and the mammogram didn't show any signs of cancer. My doctor says the pain is caused by the chest-wall muscle and that perhaps a better bra would help. I do not have a large chest.

Please give me your professional opinion: Is this just a muscle problem or something else?

Dear Reader: You have had a battery of appropriate testing with normal results. This still leaves your lungs and the surrounding muscles. You say you had a breathing test but do not mention which one. I recommend you have a pulmonology consult. This type of doctor specializes in breathing and lung disorders. If the pulmonologist rules out your lungs, your chest-wall muscles may be the culprit. If this is the case, you are probably suffering from a strain or chest wall syndrome (inflammation of the lining around the lungs). Without proper treatment, these conditions will heal on their own but often very slowly.

In the meantime, take an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) for the pain. You may also want to try using a heating pad or cream such as Icy Hot or Castiva. If these don't help, try acupressure or acupuncture. Physical or water therapy may provide you with some pain relief, too.

To give you related information, I am sending you my Health Report "Pulmonary Disease." Others who would like a copy should send a self-addressed, stamped No. 10 envelope and $2 to Newsletter, PO Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title.

Write Dr. Gott c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave. 4th floor, New York, NY 10016.

Originally published by PETER GOTT Newspaper Enterprise Association.

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