Breast Pain (Mastalgia)
Breast pain can be a troublesome symptom, but is rarely a sign of underlying breast cancer.
Most women naturally have some degree of breast pain, particularly for a few days prior to each menstrual period. The breast tissue is very sensitive to your hormones and it is therefore normal to have changes including pain and tenderness.
Hormonal breast pain is generally felt as a soreness or an aching along the side of the breast and up into the armpit. The breast is often tender to touch, particularly when your bra is removed.
Breast pain can become more of a problem; occurring for a much longer time prior to your menstrual cycle or even occurring continuously. Once the pain gets to this level it is worth taking measures to reduce your discomfort. There are simple remedies for this type of breast pain that are very often effective. Occasionally these simple measures do not work and more direct measures, such as medication, are required. With the correct advice and treatment, nearly all women with breast pain can achieve significant improvements in their discomfort and often complete relief is possible.
In addition to hormonal causes for breast pain a small number of women have breast pain caused by inflammation in the milk ducts of the breast. This is termed periductal mastitis. It occurs much more commonly in women who smoke though it can occur in non-smokers as well. The pain of peri-ductal mastitis is often briefer and sharper, sometimes described as a stabbing pain, and is frequently described as being centred on, or radiating through, the nipple. The cause of this inflammation is not infective and antibiotics do not need to lead to any improvement in the symptoms. In general the treatment is more difficult and may require surgery for a full resolution.