Research Article

Mastalgia: psychoneurosis or organic disease?

Br Med J 1978; 1 doi: (Published 07 January 1978) Cite this as: Br Med J 1978;1:29
  1. P E Preece,
  2. R E Mansel,
  3. L E Hughes


    To test the traditional surgical view that pain in the breast is largely an expression of psychoneurosis, the Middelesex Hospital Questionnaire was given to 317 women with mastalgia and 170 controls with varicose veins. Their scores were compared with those of 173 women psychiatric outpatients tested by the designers of the questionnaire. The results were broadly similar in the mastalgia and varicose veins groups, and where there were significant differences women with varicose veins had a higher psychoneurotic score in each case. Within the mastalgia group no difference in scores was observed between patients with cyclical mastalgia and those with mastalgia due to periductal mastitis. Both groups of surgical outpatients had significantly lower scores in major traits than the psychiatric group, except for a small group of patients with breast pain who persistently failed to respond to treatment. Patients with mastalgia are therefore no more "neurotic" than those with varicose veins, and differ greatly from patients with recognized psychoneurosis. Most patients have a physiological or pathological basis for their breast pain, and they deserve an appropriate diagnostic and therapeutic approach.