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Breast pain is a common complaint of women of all ages. Some breast pain is easy to explain, but some is more difficult to diagnose. There are many reasons breasts can hurt; it’s important to know what the potential causes of breast pain can be, and when to contact your physician.

Types of breast pain

There are two basic types of breast pain – cyclic and non-cyclic. 

Cyclic pain comes and goes with your menstrual cycle. An example would be breast pain or tenderness at the same time during your cycle. Many women experience breast pain and tenderness about two weeks before their period starts. Cyclic pain accounts for about 75 percent of all breast pain. It’s most common in women between the ages of 20 and 50, and it usually resolves after menopause. Cyclic breast pain tends to occur in the upper, outer areas of both breasts, and it can also be felt in the underarm area.

Non-cyclic pain is not related to the menstrual cycle, and it doesn’t usually come and go in a regular pattern. Most people who experience non-cyclical breast pain are women who are post-menopausal and between 40 and 50 years old. The pain is often described as a tightening, a burning sensation, or breast soreness. It can be constant or intermittent.

What causes breast pain?

Breast pain can be caused by many conditions. Most of them are not serious, but some can be and it’s important to talk to your doctor if you have breast painCauses of breast pain include:

  • breast cysts – not all breast cysts cause pain, but some can cause pain or tenderness that can be constant or can come and go
  • medications such as:
    • hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
    • birth control pills or injections
    • infertility treatments
    • antidepressants
    • SSRIs
    • diuretics 
  • fibrocystic breast changes – lumps, tenderness, and swelling in breasts caused by a buildup of fluid in the breasts
  • breast surgery – scar tissue after breast surgery can cause pain and soreness
  • mastitis –  a breast infection that can affect any woman, but most often affects women who are lactating
  • costochondritis
  • trauma or injury to the breast or surrounding tissue
  • a bra that doesn’t offer enough support or the right support
  • breast cancer – we listed this last because most breast pain is not due to breast cancer; most types of breast cancer don’t cause pain, but some breast tumors and inflammatory breast cancer can cause pain

If you have any type of breast pain, it’s always best to have it checked out by your doctor, whether you think it’s breast cancer or not. 

If you have any of the following signs of symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor:

  • a lump or thickening in your breast
  • pain or a lump that doesn’t go away after your menstrual period
  • nipple discharge of any kind, even if it’s clear
  • breast pain that is not due to a known condition or that does not go away
  • symptoms of a breast infection, such as a pain, a fever, redness or tenderness, or pus

And while breast pain is not a common symptom of breast cancer, nor is breast cancer the most common cause of breast pain, it’s important to know what the signs and symptoms of breast cancer are so you know what to look for. 

For a referral to a Beaumont breast care doctor, call 800-633-7377