Breast pain may be described as tenderness, throbbing, stabbing, or burning. Common causes include menstruation, pregnancy, lactation, and menopause. However, cysts or tumors can also cause pain by compressing the surrounding nerves in the breast tissue.
The easiest way to tell whether breast pain is something to worry about or not is to determine whether it is cyclic or noncyclic.
What is the difference between cyclic and noncyclic breast pain?
Cyclic breast pain
Cyclic breast pain occurs every month around the same time and usually affects both breasts. The pain is diffuse and associated with mild tenderness, which typically fades without medical intervention as hormonal changes subside.
Noncyclic breast pain
Noncyclic breast pain is persistent pain that usually affects only one breast and is confined to a particular area. Instead of coming and going, the pain is present all the time. Depending on the underlying cause, the pain may be sharp, burning, throbbing, stabbing, etc.
9 causes of breast pain
- Medications: Oral contraceptive pills, hormonal injections, antidepressants, and antipsychotics can alter the hormonal balance of the body and lead to breast pain.
- Caffeine: High levels of caffeine may be linked to breast pain, although more research is needed.
- Injury: Direct injury can damage breast tissue and cause mastitis or inflammation.
- Poor-fitting bra: Wearing a bra without proper support can cause soft tissues to stretch and cause sore or achy breasts.
- Referred pain: Sometimes, pain felt in the breast is caused by pain that originates from other areas of the body, such as pain due to heart conditions or inflammation at the junction of the ribs and cartilage in the chest wall (costochondritis).
- Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding can cause soreness around the nipples and increased breast tenderness.
- Breast implants: Damage to the implant can cause inflammation in the breast tissue, leading to breast pain.
- Cysts: Cysts are fluid-filled lumps that may change in size during menstruation and pregnancy due to fluctuating hormones. Cysts can cause breast pain due to compression of surrounding tissues.
- Tumors: Both benign and malignant tumors in the breast can cause pain due to pressure on the nerves. However, tumors of the breast usually don’t cause pain in the initial stages.
When to see a doctor for breast pain
Seek medical attention if you notice the following symptoms:
- Pain that interferes normal day-to-day activities and/or affects sleep
- Pain lasts more than 2 weeks or that is noncyclic
- Bloody or abnormal discharge from the nipples
- Inverted nipple
- Change in the appearance of skin over the breast (orange-peel appearance)
- Hard lump that can be felt on palpation
- Lump that increases in size over time
- Fever, chest pain, breathing difficulty, or numbness
As the incidence of breast cancer has increased over the years, doctors advise women in the reproductive age group (20-50) to undergo annual check-ups. Moreover, it is recommended to see a doctor if your breast pain is new and/or different in nature than pain you have experienced in the past.
Latest Women's Health News
Daily Health News
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top When to Worry About Breast Pain Related Articles
Breast Anatomy PictureThe breast refers to the front of the chest or, more specifically, to the mammary gland. See a picture of Breast Anatomy and learn more about the health topic.
Breast BiopsyThere are several types of breast biopsies, which are diagnostic procedures to examine part or all of suspicious breast growth(s). The types of breast biopsies include fine needle aspiration (FNA), core needle breast biopsy (CNB), vacuum-assisted breast biopsy, and excision breast biopsy (surgery, lumpectomy). The type of breast biopsy procedure depends upon the location and size of the growth(s).
Young Women & Breast CancerIs breast cancer genetic? Should I get tested for the BRCA gene? What every young women should know about breast cancer. Discover the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and other crucial breast cancer facts.
Breast Cancer SlidesLearn about breast cancer causes, symptoms, tests, recovery, and prevention. Discover the types of treatments such as surgery and drug therapies as well as the survival rate for breast cancer.
Breast Cancer QuizThis Breast Cancer Quiz features signs, symptoms, facts, causes, common forms, terms, risk factors, statistics, and more. Increase your awareness of breast cancer now!
Breast Lumps (in Women)Breast lumps in women can have a variety of causes such as breast inflammation, infection, injuries, cancer, and non-cancerous growths. Breast lumps in women are diagnosed with physical exam, mammogram, ultrasound, MRI, and biopsy. Treatment of breast lumps in women depend on the cause.
How Long Does It Take to Recover From Breast Reduction?Following breast reduction, most patients are usually discharged 24-48 hours later. The doctor provides medication and several supportive measures. Most patients can perform routine daily activities on their own after a week and resume light activities two weeks after surgery. Complete recovery after breast reduction usually takes around 8-12 weeks.
Breast Self-ExamA woman can use a breast self-exam to check for changes, lumps, or thickenings, in her breasts. Any unusual changes should be reported to the doctor. A breast self-exam is one way to detect lumps that may be cancerous. Early detection and treatment of breast cancer greatly increases the likelihood for survival.
Breastfeeding (and Formula Feeding)It's important to know whether you will breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby prior to delivery, as the breasts' ability to produce milk diminishes soon after childbirth without the stimulation of breastfeeding. Breast milk is easily digested by babies and contains infection-fighting antibodies and cholesterol, which promotes brain growth. Formula-fed babies actually need to eat somewhat less often since formula is less readily digested by the baby than human milk. This article explores the advantages and disadvantages of both forms of feeding.
Do Inverted Nipples Make Breastfeeding Difficult?Inverted nipples can make breastfeeding difficult for nursing mothers. Learn how to identify an inverted nipple, why inverted nipples can make it difficult to breastfeed, and what you can do to treat inverted nipples.
Everyday Habits to Lower Breast Cancer RiskConcerned about your breast cancer risk? Here are everyday health habits you can adopt to improve your odds.
What Are the Symptoms of Breast Implant Illness?Many women report that breast implants cause the following symptoms of breast implant illness. However, the FDA lacks conclusive evidence that breast augmentation causes the reported symptoms.
What Is Usually the First Sign of Breast Cancer?A lump in the breast or in the armpits is often the first sign of breast cancer. This may be felt while in the shower. There may or may not be changes in the structure of the breast. Other early signs include changes in breast skin, breast pain and others.
Why Do Your Breasts Get Bigger Before Your Period?Many women may notice that their breasts become larger just before a week of menses, whereas others may not experience such symptoms. Breast swelling and tenderness occur due to a surge in hormones during the menstrual cycle.