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Breast pain

Breast pain alone is rarely an indication of breast cancer. However, any unusual pain, particularly in one breast, should be carefully investigated by your GP.

Women of all ages should be aware of their breasts so they can notice any changes and see medical advice promptly if they are concerned about any change.

Types of breast pain

The most common type of breast pain is cyclical which occurs prior to or during the menstrual period. This pain, which may vary in severity, is normal and relates to changes in hormone levels at the time. Non-cyclical pain may come from the breast but is unrelated to the menstrual period. It’s more common in older women before and after menopause.

Women should talk to their doctor if a sharp or stabbing pain begins suddenly, continues and is confined to one spot in the breast area. This type of pain often involves the bones, joints or muscles.

Causes

  • hormonal changes
  • pregnancy
  • weight gain
  • bra problems
  • infection of the breast (mastitis)
  • injury to the breast
  • arthritis pain or a pinched nerve in the neck area
  • inflammation of a rib joint
  • simple cysts
  • some forms of hormonal replacement therapy.

Relieving breast pain

Here are some simple suggestions you may like to try if you suffer from breast pain:

  • Bra fit—some women find wearing a correctly fitted supportive bra, including at night, helps by reducing breast movement. Other women choose not to wear a bra at all or choose to loose fitting or soft bra at night.
  • Dietary changes—reducing your caffeine (coffee, tea, cola and chocolate), salt and fat intakes can be helpful.
  • Natural supplements—some women have found vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and B1 (thiamine) relieves breast pain. Evening primrose oil can also help to relieve pain or premenstrual symptoms. Check with your GP or pharmacist about the recommended dose.
  • Applying heat or cold—using a hot water bottle or cold icepack can help. Otherwise, taking a cold or hot shower may be more effective.
  • Managing stress—stress appears to be influenced by hormone levels so relaxation and meditation can be helpful.
  • Track your pain—it may be useful to keep a record of your breast pain for a couple of months to see whether changes are regular. Note each day how bad the pain is on a scale of 1-5, what the pain is like and any changes in your diet or stressful events that have occurred. This information will help your doctor recommend simple and effective treatments, if needed.

If you are concerned about any unusual persistent breast pain, you should talk to your doctor.

Further information