Breast pain involves any discomfort or pain in the breast. There are many possible causes of breast pain (ie: premenstrual breast tenderness). The most common cause of breast pain and/or tenderness is due to hormonal fluctuations related to menstruation, pregnancy or menopause. Some degree of swelling and tenderness just before your period is normal. The question is how tolerable (or intolerable) the discomfort is to you.
Although many women with pain in one or both breasts understandably fear breast cancer, breast pain is NOT a common symptom of cancer.
As a normal part of development, adolescent boys can also have some breast swelling and tenderness, because boys and men also have breast tissue. Like breast tenderness in women, this is due to hormonal changes.
Other causes of breast pain exist, and include some of the following:
- Puberty – in both girls and boys
- Breastfeeding, pregnancy or recent childbirth
- Approach of menopause (once menstrual periods have stopped completely, breast pain/tenderness often improves)
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
- Mastitis: a blocked/infected milk duct, that is usually associated with redness (usually associated with breastfeeding)
- Alcoholism with liver damage
- Certain medications (make sure to disclose all medications taken to your health care provider)
Some remedies of controlling breast pain can include taking birth control if the pain is secondary to premenstrual syndrome. If the pain is secondary to breast injury, apply a cold compress for 15-20 minutes at a time, and take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (i.e Tylenol, ibuprofen, Aleve). If the pain is secondary to an infection you will require antibiotics. Signs of an infection include breast pain and tenderness associated with an area of redness, nipple discharge and/or fever. Schedule an appointment to see your healthcare professional regarding treatment, if you feel you may have a breast infection.
Please call your healthcare professional if you have any of the below symptoms:
- Discharge from your nipples, especially blood or pus
- If you have given birth within the last month and your breasts are swollen and hard
- Signs of a breast infection (redness, pus/discharge, fever)
- Notice a new lump associated with pain that does not improve after your menstrual period
- Persistent, unexplained breast pain
Most of the time breast pain is not a worrisome symptom, but more of a problem with everyday comfort. Prevention of breast pain is usually the best way to improve symptoms. You should wear a well-fitting brassiere for support, especially if your breasts are large. You should also perform a monthly breast self-exam 3-5 days after your period (when the breast tissue is the least tender). This is important to feel for any changes in your breast tissue. If you detect any change from the previous month, it is important to notify your doctor.