Breast pain (mastalgia) is a common complaint among women. You might describe your breast pain as chronic tenderness, sharp burning or tightness in your breast tissue. The pain may be constant or it may occur only occasionally.
Some women have severe breast pain, occurring more than five days a month, Severe breast pain may even persist throughout the menstrual cycle. Postmenopausal women sometimes have breast pain, but the symptom is more common in younger, premenopausal women and perimenopausal women.
Most times, breast pain signals a noncancerous (benign) breast condition and rarely signifies breast cancer. Still, unexplained breast pain that doesn't go away after your next menstrual cycle or that persists after menopause needs to be evaluated by your doctor.
Most cases of breast pain are classified as either cyclic or noncyclic. Each type of breast pain has distinct characteristics.
Extramammary breast pain
When to see a doctor
Although it's not a common symptom of breast cancer, localized breast pain is associated with breast cancer in a small percentage of women.
Most of the time, it's not possible to identify the exact cause of breast pain. Likely contributors are:
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor, a general practitioner or other care provider. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred immediately to a breast health specialist.
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor also may assess your personal risk of breast cancer, based on factors such as your age, family medical history and prior history of precancerous breast lesions.
Tests and diagnosis
Tests to evaluate your condition may include:
Treatments and drugs
Often, breast pain resolves on its own within a few months. Very few women require specific treatment.
To treat breast pain, your doctor might recommend that you:
Lifestyle and home remedies
Even though there is little formal research to show the efficacy of these self-care remedies, they help many women manage their breast pain. Some may be worth a try:
Vitamins and dietary supplements lessen breast pain symptoms and severity for some women. Ask your doctor if one of these might help you:
If you try a supplement for breast pain, stop taking it after two or three months if you don't notice any improvement in your breast pain.
Last Updated: 2010-07-13
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