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Breast pain

Pain - breast; Mastalgia; Mastodynia; Breast tenderness

Breast pain is any discomfort or pain in the breast.

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Female Breast
Breast pain

Considerations

There are many possible causes for breast pain. For example, changes in the level of hormones during menstruation or pregnancy often cause breast pain. Some swelling and tenderness just before your period is normal.

Some women who have pain in one or both breasts may fear breast cancer. However, breast pain is not a common symptom of cancer.

Causes

Some breast tenderness is normal. The discomfort may be caused by hormone changes from:

Soon after having a baby, a woman's breasts may become swollen with milk. This can be very painful. If you also have an area of redness, call your health care provider, as this may be a sign of an infection or other more serious breast problem.

Breastfeeding itself may also cause breast pain.

Fibrocystic breast changes are a common cause of breast pain. Fibrocystic breast tissue contains lumps or cysts that tend to be more tender just before your menstrual period.

Certain medicines may also cause breast pain, including:

Shingles can lead to pain in the breast if the painful blistering rash appears on the skin of your breasts.

Home Care

If you have painful breasts, the following may help:

There is no good evidence to show that reducing the amount of fat, caffeine, or chocolate in your diet helps reduce breast pain. Vitamin E, thiamine, magnesium, and evening primrose oil are not harmful, but most studies have not shown any benefit. Talk to your provider before starting any medicine or supplement.

Certain birth control pills may help ease breast pain. Ask your provider if this therapy is right for you.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you have:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider will perform a breast examination and ask questions about your breast pain. You may have a mammogram or ultrasound.

Your provider may arrange a follow-up visit if your symptoms have not gone away in a given period of time. You may be referred to a specialist.

Related Information

Premenstrual breast changes
Breast cancer
Breast enlargement in males

References

Klimberg VS, Hunt KK. Diseases of the breast. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 35.

Sandadi S, Rock DT, Orr JW, Valea FA. Breast diseases: detection, management, and surveillance of breast disease. In: Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 15.

Sasaki J, Geletzke A, Kass RB, Klimberg VS, Copeland EM, Bland KI. Etiologoy and management of benign breast disease. In: Bland KI, Copeland EM, Klimberg VS, Gradishar WJ, eds. The Breast: Comprehensive Management of Benign and Malignant Diseases. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 5.

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Review Date: 10/16/2020  

Reviewed By: Todd Campbell, MD, FACS, Clinical Assistant Professor Department of Surgery, Volunteer Faculty, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, NJ; Medical Director, Independence Blue Cross, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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