Breast pain – a common condition among women – can be accompanied by breast tenderness, heaviness, swelling, sharp shooting or burning pangs or tightness in breasts. The pain may range from mild to severe, it may be continuous or it may come and go periodically. More common in young women, breast pain may sometimes occur in older women after menopause. Mostly breast pain reflects a non cancerous condition and is not usually linked to breast cancer. However, pain that lasts for a couple of months or remains after menopause need to be assessed by a healthcare professional.
Breast pain, in most cases, is categorized into either cyclic (breast pain linked to periods) or non-cyclic (breast pain not linked to periods). Also, the pain may have extramammary (outside the breast) origin. Each category has its distinct characteristics. It is significantly important to differentiate between the pain coming from the breast and pain that starts in the chest and radiates to your breast as the management of cyclic and non-cyclic breast pain are somehow similar, whereas, pain coming outside of breast requires different approach.
Extramammary pain, or pain coming outside the breast, may feels like it begins in the breast, but actually it is a referred pain from a different source. Most likely extramammary pain originates from muscle and bone problems and comes from sources, such as chest wall and spine. Also, the pain may be a result of a local injury or a complication of a medical procedure. However, the pain may reflect a medical condition related to internal organs, such as heart, lungs, gallbladder and oesophagus (gullet).
Various factors can cause breast pain. Some of the most common causes are:
One of the first signs of pregnancy is specific changes in breasts. In early stages of pregnancy your breasts may feel heavy, tender or swollen. Also your nipples may become more sensitive and larger, and the area around the nipple may get darker.
Premenstrual syndrome is a common condition among women that affects emotional, physical and behavioral aspects of the life, usually before 5 to 11 days prior to the periods. The symptoms of premenstrual cycle vary from woman to woman and from period to period, and may include fatigue, headaches, breast pain and many others.
Menopause is a normal and natural condition that every women experience with age. Usually it begins when a women is between 45 and 55, however menopause may occur outside of that age range. Women during the menopause may experience different symptoms, including night sweats, hot flashes, flushes, breast pain and other symptoms.
Breast pain is not necessarily a sign of a breast cancer. Having a lump or pain in your breasts does not mean you have a cancer. However, if you have a continuous pain in a specific area of your breast that isn’t related to your periods, you should see your doctor.
Over the years, as woman get older, her breasts undergo certain changes called involution. Normally, during breast involution, the breast tissue is replaced by fat tissue. In some cases natural breast involution may end up with the development of fibrous tissue and cysts. Breast cysts are not always painful, however they may cause pain.
Mastitis is the inflammation of the breast tissue, usually caused by infection via damaged nipple. This condition occurs mostly in women who are breast-feeding. Mastitis causes breast swelling, redness, enlaragement, as well as breast and armpit tenderness, breast itching, feeling of warmth on the breast and fever.
Breast Duct Papilloma, also called intraductal papilloma, is a small benign tumor formed in the milk duct of the breast. Most common in women from 35 to 55 years old, these benign tumors are typically made from fibrous tissue, gland tissue and blood vessels. The main symptoms of breast duct papilloma are nipple discharge, breast enlargement and breast lumps. Some women may experience breast pain and discomfort.
Ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg develops outside the uterus. Ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency. The symptoms of ectopic pregnancy incorporate severe, sharp pain on the one side of the lower belly or pelvis that may radiate to the shoulder or neck, bleeding from vagina and dizziness. You should seek medical help immediately if you experience any of the above mentioned symptoms.
Pain in breasts may be caused by several others factors, including:
The management of breast pain is highly depends on whether the pain is related to your periods or not.
Management of cyclical pain or pain related to your periods includes:
If you breast pain is not related to your periods you should see your doctor. Before starting the treatment the doctor will consider the severity of the pain, your age, medical history, and perform clinical breast exam, trying to identify the cause. After your doctor may run some medical tests, such as mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy and many others in order to obtain the necessary information and prescribe specific related treatments.
Although the effectiveness of the below-mentioned self-care measures, some may be helpful:
When you have a sudden breast pain with chest pain and tingling or numbness in your hands or legs, you should immediately seek for medical help, as those symptoms may reflect heart attack.
Schedule an appointment with your doctor, if: