Clinical evaluation of mastalgia

Houman Tavaf-Motamen*, Deborah N. Ader, Matrice W. Browne, Craig D. Shriver

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Objective: To describe an accurate and reproducible method to quantify a patient's subjective experience of breast pain. Design: Prospective diary study. Setting: Military tertiary care hospital. Patients: Thirty female military health care beneficiaries from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC, gynecology and general surgery clinics. Main Outcome Measures: Daily mastalgia was recorded using a visual analog scale and menstrual symptoms were measured using a daily questionnaire. These measures were correlated with results of a screening questionnaire completed prior to study entry. Results: Patients identified as having cyclical mastalgia based on the screening questionnaire (n = 15) were found to have higher peak perimenstrual mastalgia according to their daily diaries than patients who did not meet diagnostic criteria (n=15) (5.3±0.7 vs 3.5±0.5, P<.001). Applying the same criteria used in the screening questionnaire to the diary data, 17 of 30 patients met diagnostic criteria for cyclical mastalgia. The ability of the screening questionnaire to predict the results of the prospective diary data was calculated, and positive and negative predictive values were 73% and 60%, respectively. Most patients with cyclical mastalgia also have other perimenstrual psychological and somatic complaints, although a subset of patients has high levels of mastalgia with minimal associated symptoms. Conclusions: Accurate assessment of mastalgia cannot be done with a retrospective questionnaire and requires prospective diary evaluation, owing to the variable and subjective nature of symptoms and recall bias. A daily visual analog scale provides reproducible results and is easy for patients to use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-213
Number of pages3
JournalArchives of Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1998
Externally publishedYes


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