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Breast Pain: Types, Causes, and Symptoms

breast pain

Breast pain, a common concern among women, can be a source of worry and discomfort. It’s essential to understand the various factors that can contribute to breast pain, from hormonal fluctuations and lifestyle choices to underlying medical conditions.

In this blog, we’ll delve into the world of breast pain, offering insights, advice, and solutions to help you better manage and navigate this often-encountered issue.

What is Breast Pain?

Breast pain, known as mastalgia, can arise due to factors like hormonal changes, medication, or surgeries like chest binding. It can be cyclical, linked to the menstrual cycle, or non-cyclical with diverse causes.

Non Cyclical pain may originate from injuries or surrounding tissues. Pain can range from mild discomfort to sharp sensations. 

What Are the Types of Breast Pain?

Breast pain may be classified into two different categories:

  1. Cyclic breast pain-

    Cyclic breast pain aligns with the menstrual cycle, mainly affecting women aged 20 to 50, especially younger ones. It can occur in one or both breasts due to hormonal changes. Typically, it starts a week before your period, in the upper, and outer breast areas, disappearing after menstruation and recurring in the next cycle. Post-menopause, this pain is rare.

  2. Noncyclic breast pain-

    This kind of breast pain is more frequent in women between the ages of 40 and 50 and is unrelated to the menstrual cycle.

What Are the Symptoms of Breast Pain?

The symptoms of cyclic and noncyclic breast pain differ:

Cyclic breast pain

  • Tender
  • Swollen
  • Heavy
  • Sore
  • It may spread to the armpit and shoulders

Noncyclic breast pain

  • Limited to one specific area
  • Sharper, acute pain
  • Burning, stabbing sensation
  • May come and go or persist

The severity varies among individuals, and recognizing these distinctions can aid in understanding and managing breast pain effectively.

You Can Also Read: Breast Pain: Top 10 Reasons Why Breast Pain Happens

What Are the Causes of Breast Pain?

Breast pain can have various causes, such as:

Hormone fluctuations

  • Hormones like oestrogen and progesterone fluctuate during the menstrual cycle, menopause, or hormone therapy, leading to breast swelling and tenderness.
  • Pain can occur during premenopause, perimenopause, and postmenopause, sometimes persisting with oral contraception or oestrogen replacement.
  • Track your menstrual cycle to identify patterns of pain related to hormone changes.

Developmental stages

  • Puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can influence the menstrual cycle and cause breast pain.

Fibrocystic breasts

  • As you age, fat replaces breast tissue, leading to fibrocystic breasts, which can feel lumpy and tender, especially during your menstrual cycle.
  • Doctors can perform tests if you notice breast lumps.

Breastfeeding pain causes

  • Mastitis: Inflammation of milk ducts causing strong breast pain, swelling, and fever.
  • Engorgement: Breasts overfill with milk, becoming hard and painful. Relieve it through various methods.
  • Improper Latch: Incorrect latching by the baby may result in breast pain and nipple issues.

Other causes

  • Extramammary Concerns: Muscle irritation in the chest, arm, or back can lead to breast pain.
  • Poor-Fitting Bras: Insufficient support can cause neck and shoulder discomfort.
  • Breast Surgery: Scar tissue pain can linger after healing.
  • Medications: Some medications, like antidepressants and hormones, can contribute to breast pain.
  • Smoking: Increases epinephrine levels, potentially causing breast pain.

How is Breast Pain Diagnosed?

To ascertain whether your breast pain is associated with cancer, your doctor may employ the below diagnostic procedures:

  • Mammogram

    This imaging examination helps doctors find anomalies in breast tissue.

  • Ultrasound

    Without exposing you to radiation, an ultrasound scans the breast tissue. It is useful for identifying lumps by doctors.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

    To find possibly malignant tumours, an MRI produces finely detailed pictures of breast tissue.

  • Biopsy

    Breast tissue is removed during a biopsy to allow the doctor to look for cancerous cells.

What is the Treatment for Breast Pain?

Cyclic breast pain is a common part of the menstrual cycle, often manageable without extensive treatment. Some pain-relieving medications include:

  • Acetaminophen 
  • Ibuprofen 
  • Naproxen sodium 
  • Aspirin 
  • Diclofenac 

For severe cases, Danazol or Tamoxifen may be prescribed but consult your doctor due to potential side effects. Additional relief methods include:

  • Wearing a well-fitting, supportive bra (ensure proper sizing).
  • Taking Vitamin E supplements and multivitamins.
  • Eliminating caffeine and tobacco.
  • Using evening primrose oil.
  • Applying heat to painful areas (protect the skin).
  • Taking magnesium supplements two weeks before menstruation.
  • Using trolamine salicylate cream.
  • Exploring relaxation and complementary therapies.

Noncyclic breast pain may require similar medications while identifying and addressing underlying causes like fibroadenomas or cysts can offer symptom relief.

You Can Also Read: Breast Cancer: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

What Are the Preventive Measures for Breast Pain?

Cyclic breast pain is inevitable during the menstrual cycle, but you can minimise it with lifestyle adjustments, like:

  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine consumption.
  • Follow a low-fat diet.
  • Wear a well-fitting sports bra, particularly during exercise, to provide support and alleviate discomfort.

When is Breast Pain a Concern? 

Breast pain, or mastalgia, is common, and often related to hormonal changes. Concerns arise in specific scenarios:

  • Persistent/severe pain: Seek medical attention if pain worsens or persists.
  • One-sided pain: Unilateral pain may signal underlying issues.
  • Lump or mass: Any breast changes with pain should be evaluated, as they could be related to serious conditions.
  • Nipple changes: Discharge, retraction, or colour/shape changes need medical assessment.
  • Family history: There is a higher risk if a family history of breast conditions or cancer exists.
  • Age: Postmenopausal women with breast pain should consult a healthcare provider.
  • Recent injury: If pain follows trauma, consider evaluation to rule out underlying damage.
  • Pain with other symptoms: Fever, redness, warmth, or swelling may indicate infection or inflammation.

Remember, most breast pain isn’t cancer-related, but consult a healthcare provider for proper evaluation and guidance.


Numerous factors, including hormonal changes, certain drugs, and pain from an accident, can cause breast discomfort. Breast pain treatment is based on its underlying cause. It is always advisable to seek medical help from an experienced breast specialist. Timely care and help can ensure an appropriate diagnosis and treatment of your condition. 

At the CK Birla Hospital, we ensure patients get holistic medical support which includes treatment in a compassionate environment. This patient-centric approach not only helps patients heal better but also ensures they are aware of the preventive measures as well. In case you need to consult a breast specialist, reach out to us, or book a direct appointment at the CK Birla Hospital.


What Causes Breast Pain?

Breast pain can result from hormonal changes, injury, infection, or benign conditions like fibrocystic changes, but it may also indicate breast cancer, requiring medical evaluation.

Is Breast Pain Normal, or Could It Be a Sign of a Serious Medical Condition?

Breast pain is often benign and related to hormonal changes, but it can also signal a serious condition like breast cancer, so it should not be ignored, and medical evaluation is important.

How Can I Differentiate Between Normal Breast Pain and Abnormal Breast Pain?

Normal breast pain typically fluctuates with the menstrual cycle and feels mild to moderate. Abnormal breast pain is persistent, severe, one-sided, or accompanied by lumps, skin changes, or discharge, warranting medical assessment.

When Should I Seek Medical Attention for Breast Pain?

Seek medical attention for breast pain if it’s persistent, severe, one-sided, or accompanied by lumps, skin changes, nipple discharge, or other concerning symptoms, as it may indicate a serious issue.

What Are Some Common Treatment Options for Breast Pain?

Common treatment options for breast pain include over-the-counter pain relievers, wearing a well-fitted bra, lifestyle changes (e.g., reducing caffeine intake), and hormonal therapies prescribed by a doctor when necessary.

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