Breast Problems in Women

Breast lumps, pain, discharge or skin problems can be a sign of a minor problem or something more serious, so it's important to pay attention to any changes. Follow this chart for more information about breast problems.

Our trusted Symptom Checker is written and reviewed by physicians and patient education professionals. Find a possible diagnosis by choosing a symptom and answering a few simple questions.

Remember, be sure to consult with your doctor if you feel you have a serious medical problem.

Step 2

Answering Questions

  • Do you have swelling and tenderness in one or both breasts?

  • Have you given birth recently?

  • Did the tenderness start recently, and do your breasts feel fuller and heavier?

  • Do the swelling and tenderness seem to occur at about the same time during every menstrual cycle?

  • Do you feel thickened, bumpy areas throughout your breast?

  • Do you feel a tender lump, smaller than a penny, that wasn’t there last month?

  • Do you feel a painless lump that is deep in your breast, possibly attached to your ribs?

  • Are you breastfeeding and having pain and cracking of the nipple?

  • Have you noticed any breast changes such as skin dimpling or puckering, redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin, or have you had any nipple discharge?

  • Do you have a sore on your breast that won’t heal?

Step 3

Possible Causes

  • Diagnosis

    Soon after giving birth, your breasts could become engorged with milk, causing swelling and tenderness.

    Breast pain along with redness, nipple discharge, itching or a fever, could be a sign of MASTITIS, an infection of a milk duct.


    Self Care

    If your breasts are engorged, applying warm compresses to the breast and gently expressing some milk may help.

    If you have an infection, talk to your doctor. He or she may give you an antibiotic.


  • Diagnosis

    You may be PREGNANT. Changes in the way your breasts feel, fatigue, nausea and frequent urination are some of the early signs of pregnancy.


    Self Care

    Take an at-home pregnancy test. If it’s positive, see your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    Your symptoms may be caused by FIBROCYSTIC DISEASE.


    Self Care

    See your doctor. He or she may recommend that you avoid fatty foods and caffeine.


  • Diagnosis

    Your symptoms may be a result of HORMONAL CHANGES during your menstrual cycle. If you also have irritability, trouble sleeping and mood changes, you may have PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME (PMS).


    Self Care

    Over-the-counter medicines may help relieve bloating and tenderness. Ibuprofen or naproxen may be helpful for painful periods. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugary foods and excess salt. If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may prescribe a medicine to relieve them.


  • Diagnosis

    This lump may be a noncancerous GROWTH or CYST.


    Self Care

    Carefully check this lump for a month. If it doesn’t go away or it changes, see your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    A painless, firm lump may be a sign of a more serious problem, such as BREAST CANCER.


    Self Care

    See your doctor as soon as possible.


  • Diagnosis

    Persistent pain and cracking in the nipple with breastfeeding could mean INFECTION, or it could mean that your baby is not latching properly.


    Self Care

    Try a lanolin ointment on your nipple. If it doesn’t help, see your doctor or a lactation consultant.


  • Diagnosis

    These changes may be a sign of a serious problem, such as BREAST CANCER.


    Self Care

    See your doctor as soon as possible.


  • Diagnosis

    A nonhealing sore on the breast could be a sign of a serious problem.


    Self Care

    See your doctor.


  • Self Care

    For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think your problem is serious, call right away.