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Centers for Breast Health

Breast Pain


Breast pain (also called mastalgia or mastodynia) is the most common breast related complaints among women. The severity does vary by individual but about 10% is related to a breast cancer. However, although most women with breast pain do not have a cancer, all women who experience breast pain or other breast problem should notify their healthcare provider for evaluation. Most breast pain is either categorized as Cyclic Pain on Non-Cyclic Pain. If you are breastfeeding, most women will experience mild breast pain at first but usually subsides. Chronic breast pain while nursing should be reported to your healthcare provider.

Cyclic Pain

This type of pain appears to be a breast tissue response to female hormones estrogen and progesterone. After ovulation, breast tissue may swell since hormones are stimulating the breast milk glands and ducts. The pain is often relieved when the menstrual period is completed. Even though both breasts are usually sore, one may be more painful than the other. Ask your healthcare provider if dietary, supplement, or other medication recommendations may be helpful for you. Many women wear a well fitting supportive bra to reduce movement of the breast during the painful period.

Non-Cyclic Pain

This type of pain is less common but has no relation to the menstrual cycle. Many times pain is located in one breast and even one specific location of the breast. Sometimes the pain can be related to arthritic, musculoskeletal or other injuries that involve the breast area. Also an improper fitting bra, weight change, prescription and over the counter medications or herbal supplements may be triggering the onset of breast pain. 

Your Action Plan

If you experience breast pain, notify your healthcare provider. It may be helpful to keep a calendar of your pain to share at the time of your appointment. They will evaluate your pain by taking a detailed history including onset, duration and intensity of pain and performing a clinical breast exam. Depending on your individual situation, additional breast imaging testing may be recommended. Most common testing involves mammogram with an ultrasound.

Remember 90% of breast pain is unrelated to cancer but may be related to other non cancer breast problems. Reassurance that a cancer is not present may make the pain more tolerable.