Breast pain is very common in women of all ages. For example, approximately two out of three pre-menopausal women will experience it at some time in their lives. Having breast pain does not increase your risk of breast cancer. However, it is still important to be breast aware and go back to your GP if your pain is persistent, unusual or you notice any other changes in your breasts.
There are 3 types of breast pain:
- Cyclical breast pain - breast pain that has a clear relationship to the menstrual cycle and the most common type of breast pain
- Non-cyclical breast pain - may be constant or intermittent but is not associated with the menstrual cycle
- Chest Wall (non-breast) pain - is interpreted as having a cause within the breast but arises from elsewhere
pain is linked to changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle and therefore it mainly affects women before their menopause. These hormonal changes make the breast tissue more sensitive, which in turn can cause pain.
You may experience heaviness, tenderness, a burning, prickling or stabbing type pain, or a feeling of tightness in the area. The pain can affect either one or both breasts and can also spread to the armpit, down the arm and to the shoulder blade. This type of pain usually stops when the ovaries are no longer active after the menopause.
Most noncyclic breast
pain arises for unknown reasons. A wide range of drugs have been associated with breast pain. A number of women report breast pain with oestrogen and combined hormonal therapies. Other drugs associated with breast pain include antidepressants, some cardiovascular drugs please see your GP if you are concerned.
Chest Wall (non-breast) pain
can be felt in the area of the breast but actually comes from elsewhere such as the muscles, bones and joints. This can result in continuous pain or pain that comes and goes and can affect women before and after the menopause. The pain can be in one or both breasts and can affect the whole breast or a specific area. It may be a burning, prickling or stabbing pain, or a feeling of tightness in the area. It can last from a few minutes to a few days.
Some underwire bras, or too-tight bras, can pinch or cause constant rubbing which irritates skin and breast tissue and leads to pain. We would recommend that women have a bra fitting every six months with a reputable retailer with trained bra fitters.