Is Breast Pain Something to Worry About?

David R Arbutina, MD, FACS

Breast pain is very common and experienced by most women at some time in their life. Women with breast pain often fear it is a symptom of breast cancer. On the contrary, breast cancer is usually painless. Breast pain can occur in women of all ages and can range from mild tenderness, tingling or discomfort, to severe pain. It can be present in one or both breasts and has many causes. Inflammation from fibrocystic change is the most common cause of breast pain but other causes include: hormonal changes, trauma, breast surgery, certain medications, breast size, water retention, stress, pregnancy, or from an ill fitting bra. Since there are so many potential causes of breast pain, it can be challenging to treat.

Generally, breast pain is categorized as either cyclical or noncyclical. Cyclical breast pain is most common, and is associated with a woman’s menstrual cycle. Noncyclical breast pain is less common and usually occurs in postmenopausal women. Causes of noncyclical breast pain may include trauma to the breast or arthritic pain in the chest cavity. Rarely, cancer can cause a persistent breast pain. Treatment for breast pain can vary from addressing infection or cysts to simple lifestyle modifications such as wearing a proper fitting bra, using over the counter or prescribed medications to clear inflammation, stress reduction, and dietary modifications to name a few. Taking these few simple steps may relieve breast pain, however, if it persists consult your physician.