Mastalgia is Not An Indication for Mammogram

Ian K. Komenaka, Jesse Nodora, Maria Elena Martinez, Chiu Hsieh Hsu, Tina Wong, Anushi Shah, Daniel M. Caruso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Mastalgia is a common breast complaint that is worrisome to patients. This study was performed to determine if mastalgia is a sign of breast cancer and to evaluate the benefit of its work up. Methods: Retrospective review of prospectively collected data on 8960 consecutive patients at a safety net institution from June 1, 2006 to December 31, 2020. Data on patient reported mastalgia and diagnosis of breast cancer were collected. Results: 8960 patients had a mean age of 45 years. The population was predominantly underinsured, 70% Hispanic, and 16% had adequate health literacy. Approximately 31% (2820 of 8960) of patients presented with a complaint of breast pain. Of 2820 patients with breast pain, 20 (0.7%) were found to have breast cancer. The average age of patients with breast cancer was 49 years. Physical examination identified a mass in 6 patients and only 3 patients had pain limited to the side of the cancer (10 bilateral, 7 contralateral). Of 1280 patients who were under age 40 years, 88% underwent breast imaging. The Cancer Detection Rate (CDR) was 0.9 per 1000 examinations. For 950 patients age 40 to 49 years and 590 patients age 50 years and older, 98% and 99% underwent breast imaging, respectively. The CDR was 10 per 1000 examinations for age 40 to 49 and 14 per 1000 examinations for age 50 years and older. Conclusions: Mastalgia is rarely associated with breast cancer. In the absence of other findings, imaging of patients less than age 40 is not recommended. Any workup beyond routine screening mammography in age-appropriate patients, to identify the “cause” of breast pain, does not seem warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)998-1006
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Breast Cancer
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Health Literacy
  • Low-Value Care
  • Mastalgia
  • Radiology
  • Retrospective Studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Family Practice


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