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Dr. Andrew Rynne
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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Article Home Women's Health Pain in the breast

Pain in the breast

It is also called as Mastagia

Most commonly associated with fibrocystic changes, pain may occur in both breasts, though one may be more painful that the other. With fibrocystic changes, the pain occurs about a week before the periods. The pain usually goes away gradually with the onset of the period. Many woman have breast pain and tenderness, it is called mastalgia.

Cyclical breast pain

  • It is typically most severe before your period and gets better during the periods. It usually described as bilateral occurring in both breasts in the upper outer areas of the breast and is often associated with lumpiness. It is mainly dull, aching, heavy or sore and can radiate to arm pits and to arms. The intensity of pain can be mild to severe.
  • It usually more often occurs in younger woman and most pain goes away without treatment and usually disappears at menopause.

Non cyclical breast pain

  • It is typically unilateral with no relationship with periods. This is more constant or on and off and irregular. It is described as sharp, stabbing, burning pain that appears to be right below the area around the nipple. If it is localized and persistent, it may be due to fibro adenoma or cyst.
  • In case of breast abscess the tender lump is present in lactating mothers associated with pain and pus draining from the nipple.
  • Injury to the breast can lead to pain.
  • Breast pain can get worse with changes in the hormone levels or changes in the medicines you are taking. Stress can also affect breast pain.

Diagnostic tests

Tips to reduce the pain

  • Wear a bra that provides good support, such as a sports bra.
  • Use well fitted bra.
  • Use sports bra during exercises.
  • Use a cold compress to help ease tenderness.
  • Use hot compresses if you have infection such as mastitis. You may have to take antibiotics prescribed by the doctor.


Most cases of breast pain are classified as either cyclic or noncyclical. Each type of breast pain has distinct characteristics.

Breast pain characteristics

Cyclic breast pain

Noncyclical breast pain

  • Clearly related to the menstrual cycle

  • Described as dull, heavy or aching

  • Often accompanied by breast swelling or lumpiness

  • Usually affects both breasts, particularly the upper, outer portions and can radiate to the underarm

  • Intensifies during the two weeks leading up to the start of your period, then eases up afterward

  • Usually affects premenopausal women in their 20s and 30s and Perimenopause women in their 40s

  • Unrelated to the menstrual cycle

  • Described as tight, burning or sore

  • Constant or intermittent

  • Usually affects one breast, in a localized area, but may spread more diffusely across the breast

  • Usually affects postmenopausal women in their 40s and 50s


Extra mammary breast pain

Extra mammary breast pain feels like it originates in the breast, but its source is actually somewhere else. Pulling a muscle in your chest, for example, can cause pain in your chest wall or rib cage.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have breast pain that persists daily for more than a couple of weeks, if your breast pain seems to be getting worse over time or if your breast pain interferes with daily activities.

Also see your doctor for evaluation if you have pain in one particular area within your breast. Although it's not a common symptom of breast cancer, breast pain does occur in about 2 to 7 percent of women with breast cancer.


  • Acetaminophen.
  • Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
  • Birth control pills are help full in relieving pain.
  • Reduce intake of dietary fat.
  • Take magnesium supplements.