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Breast pain is any level of discomfort or pain in one or both breasts. It’s more common in younger women.
Symptoms of breast pain in women
Pain can occur in one or both breasts. It can be a dull, continuous, ache. Or, it can be a sharp, shooting pain. The pain may come and go each month. Or, it may last for several weeks or even months.
What causes breast pain in women?
Many things can cause pain or tenderness in your breasts, including:
- Hormone changes during your period. This is the most common cause of breast pain.
- Water retention, which may happen during your period.
- Injury to your breast.
- Pregnancy, especially during the first trimester.
- Breastfeeding (nursing).
- An infection in the breast.
- Some medicines.
- Breast cancer (not a usual cause of breast pain).
- Surgery from a biopsy, breast reduction (making your breasts smaller), or a mastectomy (removing your breasts as a preventive measure or treatment for cancer).
- During a mammogram, your breast will be compressed, which can be uncomfortable. The discomfort lasts only a few moments.
If you have breast pain that lasts a long time or keeps coming back, talk to your doctor.
How is breast pain in women diagnosed?
Your doctor will examine you, ask you to describe your pain, and the location of the pain. He or she may ask you about your health history. During the exam, your doctor will check to see if you have lumps in your breasts.
If you’re younger than 30 and don’t have a breast lump, your doctor might decide you don’t need any tests. If you’re older than 30 and don’t have a breast lump, your doctor may still want you to get a mammogram and an ultrasound, if you’re having pain in a specific area. If you do have a lump (or several lumps) in your breast, your doctor might decide you need one or more of these tests:
- A mammogram.This is a special X-ray of the breasts.
- A breast ultrasound.This painless test uses sound waves to make a picture of the lump.
- A breast biopsy. For this test, some tissue is surgically removed from your breast and looked at under a microscope. The area that is removed is numbed to eliminate pain. It’s an outpatient procedure.
Can breast pain in women be prevented or avoided?
While there’s no scientific evidence lifestyle changes are effective, some women feel better when changing bra styles and cutting back on salt and caffeine.
Breast pain in women treatment
There are different treatments for breast pain, depending on what is causing it. You and your doctor can talk about these treatments. Choose one or more that might work for you. Possible treatments for breast pain include:
- Wearing a support bra.
- Applying ice or heat to the painful breast.
- Taking an over-the-counter pain medicine.
- Taking prescription pain medicine as directed by your doctor.
Living with breast pain in women
Most of the time, breast pain goes away on its own after a few months.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Are random, shooting pains a sign of a serious problem for women after menopause?
- What if I have pain with discharge?
- Does being overweight increase your chance of breast pain?
- Can birth control products cause breast pain?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.