What Causes Breast Pain
There are a number of harmless causes for breast pain and tenderness that may primarily be related to changes in hormone levels. These can include:
- Puberty in girls and sometimes for boys, too
- Menstruation and premenstrual syndrome
- Pregnancy more often during the first trimester
- Days following childbirth as milk comes in Breastfeeding Mastitis, which is caused by a milk duct that is not properly draining and becomes infected, should be treated. It has no correlation with cancer, but it can become a serious infection if left untreated.
- A benign cyst
Nipple Discharge Or Changes
One of the most common locations of breast cancer is beneath the nipple. The presence of a cancerous lesion may cause changes in appearance and sensitivity of the nipple. Different texture, color and shape might occur. The nipple may also feel much more tender and have an unusual texture. Some women describe a lack of sensitivity within the nipple, especially during intimate relations.
The American Cancer Society mentions nipple pain, nipple retraction and redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple as possible signs of breast cancer.1 WebMD also mentions itching, a burning sensation, or ulceration in the nipple.3
A discharge of clear liquid, blood, or milk that doesnt happen during breast feeding might also be a sign of breast cancer. According to WebMD, unusual discharge from the nipple is usually caused by benign conditions, but may also indicate breast cancer in some cases, in which the discharge can be clear, bloody, or another color.3
This happens when a tumor forms in the milk duct on the nipple or behind it. When this happens the skin jostles to one side, allowing the tumor to cause irritation and inflammation that results in an unusual discharge from the nipple. Medical evaluation and followups are needed for early detection, but it is important to remember that many tumors are harmless.
What Is Normal Breast Pain
Women may experience breast pain during puberty, menstruation, premenstrual syndrome, pregnancy, menopause, and after childbirth. Breast pain felt during these times is considered normal. Breast pain associated with menstrual periods called cyclic breast pain normally goes away on its own. Some swelling and tenderness is normal before or during the hormone fluctuations that occur during menstruation.
Fibrocystic breast changes may also cause breast pain. Fibrocystic breasts may contain lumps or cysts that can grow tender leading up to a menstrual period.
Some women experience breast pain during breast feeding. Breast pain may occur when breasts swell with milk, or other complications from breast feeding. Meeting with a lactation consultant can help.
Other factors that can contribute to breast pain include breast size, diet, smoking, breast surgeries, and certain medications.
Read Also: Breast Cancer Cells In Lymph Nodes
Breast Cancer In The Elderly
Breast cancer risk increases with age. A third of women diagnosed are older than 70! Cancer risk in general increases with age, and breast cancer is no exception. If youre a caregiver for an aging relative, make sure they receive proper screenings. Teach them the signs of breast cancer so they know what to look for.
Fortunately, the rate of breast cancer in women over 50 has been going down in recent years. Yet, as the population ages, the number of older women with breast cancer will continue to be high.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating breast cancer in the elderly. Cancer treatments include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Doctors often use a combination of these treatments for a single case of cancer. These treatments are hard on the body. Doctors must consider their patients ability to handle treatment when developing a plan.
Older patients are more likely to experience treatment side effects than younger patients. Sometimes, minimal treatment may be the best option. This may be the case if the cancer is not aggressive and the patient has other health conditions. This is a growing area of research and different doctors have different approaches. Your loved one may want to discuss treatment options with a few different doctors to find a treatment plan that makes them most comfortable.
Dont Miss: What Is Stage 3a Breast Cancer
Breast Pain And Breast Cancer In Men
As with breast cancer in women, breast cancer in men is often painless. That said, it tends to press on nearby structures sooner than a tumor would in most women. In addition, hormone-induced breast pain is also less likely to occur in men. If you are a man experiencing breast pain, play it safe. Breast cancer can and does occur in men. In fact, 1 in every 100 breast cancer diagnoses in the United States is in a man.
Recommended Reading: Estrogen Receptor Breast Cancer Prognosis
Breast Upper Back Or Shoulder Pain
It is normal to experience some breast pain around the time of your period, due to hormonal changes. Breast pain may also be a sign of breast cancer, especially if it lasts for more than a few weeks. Pain from breast cancer is most likely to appear in the breasts, underarm, or collarbone. It is also possible for pain to appear in the upper back or shoulder.
Some patients assume theyve pulled a muscle in their shoulder when they have breast cancer. This pain can be due to metastasis, which is when cancer spreads from one part of the body to another. Shoulder and upper back pain are very common and usually dont mean a patient has breast cancer. If youve had shoulder or back pain that wont go away, a doctor can screen you for cancer, along with other conditions.
Fat Necrosis And Oil Cysts
- Damage to the breast from injury, surgery, or radiation treatment may cause a lump. The skin around it may look thicker, red, or bruised. This condition is more common in women with very large breasts.
- No treatment is needed unless the lump is causing discomfort.
- This condition does not increase breast cancer risk.
Read Also: Estrogen Sensitive Cancers
A Lump In Your Breast
A lump or mass in the breast is the most common symptom of breast cancer. Lumps are often hard and painless, although some are painful. However, not all lumps are cancer. Benign breast conditions that can also cause lumps.
Still, its important to have your doctor check out any new lump or mass right away. If it does turn out to be cancer, the sooner its diagnosed the better.
How Are Breast Lumps And Pain Diagnosed
If you find a breast mass or lump, you should schedule an appointment with your health care professional who will do a breast examination to check your breasts for irregularities, dimpling, tightened skin, lumps, inflamed or tender areas, and nipple discharge. The areas of each breast and underarms will be examined.
If your doctor finds a lump at this time, you may have a re-examination in two to three weeks. If it is still present, then your doctor may recommend some further testing. The ideal time for the breast examination is seven to nine days after your period.
If the physical examination is normal and no mass is found, laboratory and imaging tests are not usually necessary in women younger than 35 years. Women older than 35 years should probably still have a mammogram unless they have had a mammogram in the past 12 months.
Also Check: Breast Cancer Metastasis Prognosis
But Lets Look At It A Different Way
Can women with breast pain be diagnosed with a breast cancer?
Yes they can. But they are no more likely to be diagnosed than if they had a breast screening or just came for a check-up. About 50% of the women who come to a breast clinic have breast pain, most of these women will have some form of examination and scan/mammogram. So, a proportion of these women will be diagnosed with a breast cancer as they are essentially having a breast screening.
Most of the cancers found will be incidental, which means they are found in a separate part of the breast to where the pain is, or in the other breast. Very occasionally a cancerous lump can be painful, but these are rare occurrences. Therefore, if half the women coming to clinic have breast pain, and 1 in 100 of these then are diagnosed with a breast cancer, this means there are a lot of women with the experience of having had a breast pain and then being diagnosed with a cancer. These are clearly true experiences these women did have a breast pain and were diagnosed with a cancer.
In summary, breast pain is not a worrying symptom and is very rarely a symptom of a cancer. Breast pain is very common, as is breast cancer, so many women can experience the two together even though they are not directly linked.
Breast Lumps And Pain Medications
When nonmedical treatment fails to control cyclic breast pain, your health care professional may prescribe birth control pills or danazol . Be sure to ask about possible side effects of these medications and report them to your doctor if you experience them.
- Many other drugs have been tried in the treatment of cyclic breast pain and have been found not to be useful or are generally not recommended because of their side effects.
- Noncyclic breast pain is managed by treating the underlying cause. If a mass or lump is found, it is checked and treated. When your breast pain is caused by chest wall tenderness, it is treated with anti-inflammatory medication or rarely by steroid injections.
- If no cause for the noncyclic pain is found, a pain treatment protocol for cyclic pain is usually tried and often found to be successful.
- For simple mastitis without an abscess, oral antibiotics are prescribed. The antibiotic chosen will depend on the clinical situation, your doctor’s preference, and your medication allergies, if any. This medicine is safe to use while breastfeeding and will not harm the baby.
- Chronic mastitis in nonbreastfeeding women is more complicated. Recurrent episodes of mastitis are common. Occasionally this type of infection responds poorly to antibiotics. Therefore, close follow-up with your doctor is mandatory.
Also Check: What Are The Odds Of Surviving Breast Cancer
My Lump Was Tiny And Aggressive Sherree Diagnosed At 47
Sherree had a tiny but aggressive tumor. She received 12 weeks of chemo, six weeks of radiation, and seven years of Tamoxifen. Sherree was also part of a double-blind study for the drug Avastin, which she has been on for the last three years.
When Sherree had a lumpectomy performed to remove the tumor, the margins werent clean, meaning the tumor was starting to spread. They had to go back in and remove more. She then opted for a mastectomy to ensure it was all out. Sherree is celebrating her eight-year survivorversary and is counting the days to hitting the big #10.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program At Ctca
Thats why we developed the CTCA Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program, where our team of breast cancer experts work quickly to properly diagnose and stage each patient’s disease so she can make more informed decisions about her treatment options. Our breast cancer experts collaborate daily, allowing them to reach a diagnosis more efficiently and provide an individualized care plan designed to allow you to start treatment as soon as possible. The team also offers opportunities to enroll qualified patients in carefully selected clinical trials in areas such as immunotherapy and genomically targeted chemotherapy.
If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of IBC and want to schedule an appointment for diagnostic testing, or chat online with a member of our team.
Read Also: Baking Soda And Breast Cancer
Pagets Disease Of The Breast
This is a rare skin condition that is sometimes a sign of an underlying breast cancer. The symptoms are a red, scaly rash on the nipple and surrounding area. This can be itchy and looks a bit like eczema. It is sometimes mistaken for eczema at first.
See your doctor if you have any changes in the skin of your breast.
When Should You See A Doctor For Breast Pain
While breast pain is common, and is normal in many cases, there are times when breast pain requires medical attention:
- Sudden breast pain
- Breast pain accompanied by other symptoms, such as nipple discharge
- Non-cyclical breast pain
- Breast pain that does not go away
- Breast pain that gets worse
- Debilitating breast pain
Read Also: What Happens If I Have Breast Cancer
Early Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer
Common symptoms of breast cancer include:
- A lump in your breast or underarm that doesnât go away. This is often the first symptom of breast cancer. Your doctor can usually see a lump on a mammogram long before you can see or feel it.
- Swelling in your armpit or near your collarbone. This could mean breast cancer has spread to lymph nodes in that area. Swelling may start before you feel a lump, so let your doctor know if you notice it.
- Pain and tenderness, although lumps donât usually hurt. Some may cause a prickly feeling.
- A flat or indented area on your breast. This could happen because of a tumor that you canât see or feel.
- Breast changes such as a difference in the size, contour, texture, or temperature of your breast.
- Changes in your nipple, like one that:
- Pulls inward
- Develops sores
Red Flaky Itchy Warm Or Thickened Skin
Sometimes, red, flaky, itchy, warm, or thickened skin can be a sign of breast cancer. Thickened skin may begin to feel like an orange peel. The most common cause of these symptoms is mastitis. Mastitis is an infection that can occur while breastfeeding but is also a sign of breast cancer. If youre experiencing these symptoms and theyve lasted more than a week, you should talk to your doctor.
Also Check: Breast Cancer After Mastectomy Symptoms
You’re Getting Your Period
Two-thirds of breast pain is caused by the predictable surges of estrogen and progesterone around your monthly period.
Hormonal breast pain can happen to any woman that is menstruating, Dr. Swain says. It doesnt matter if theyre 14 or 44, as long as theyre still menstruating they have the risk of having cyclic breast pain.
Youll usually feel period-related boob pain in both breasts at once and all over your breasts. Most people describe the pain as achy rather than sharp.
For some women, its enough just to know that the pain will go away, usually in a week to 10 days. Other women seek relief from over-the-counter pain medications. There is one FDA-approved prescription drug for breast pain, called danazol, but it can have serious side effects.
Tweaking your diet may limit menstrual breast pain as well: Eating more flaxseed might help, as can sticking to a low-fat diet thats rich in complex carbs, says Dr. Swain.
RELATED: The 5 Ways Your Boobs Change Throughout the Month
What Are The Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
Breast pain can be a symptom of cancer. If you have any symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.
Different people have different symptoms of breast cancer. Some people do not have any signs or symptoms at all.
Some warning signs of breast cancer are
- New lump in the breast or underarm .
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
- Pain in any area of the breast.
Keep in mind that these symptoms can happen with other conditions that are not cancer.
If you have any signs or symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.
You May Like: Estrogen Related Cancers
You Could Have Inflammatory Breast Cancer
This is one of the few times breast cancer may actually involve pain. Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and aggressive form of the disease that accounts for about 1% to 5% of all breast cancers.
In people with inflammatory breast cancer, the cancer cells obstruct the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast, causing redness, swelling, and inflammation over about a third of the breast. The skin may also look pitted due to the buildup of lymph fluid. Sometimes you might feel a lump, but usually not.
Inflammatory breast cancer is more common in younger women, African-American women, and obese womenand its usually treated with surgery, chemo, and/or radiation. Targeted therapies are also sometimes used.
Many of these symptoms could also be from an infection or injury. Dont panic, but do get checked out.
Shoulder Pain Becomes Breast Cancer
I’m posting on here as I need some help/guidance/advice as I feel at a loss.
My mum has had shoulder pain over the last few months which she has been to the doctors about numerous times. They sent her for X Ray’s and said that they couldn’t see what was wrong but suspected arthritis. The pain was getting worse and has now spread under her arm so she went back again. The nurse felt her breast and sent her for a mammogram.
On Thursday, my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer that has spread to her lymph nodes. This was the result of a biopsy that she’d had. At the minute we don’t know if it has spread any further or what stage it is. All they have said is that the cells are a grade 3 – which I think means the worst and that they are aggressive?
She’s got to go back on Thursday for some more results related to hormones, but I don’t understand what that means. I’m guessing from this they can start the course of treatment.
However she’s got to wait another 12 days for the CT scan to find out if it has spread.
I’m worried that it has because the pain started in her shoulder – so there is a chance it could be in her bones. Has anyone else ever had that?
I don’t want them to delay the start of the treatment but will that begin after the results of the CT scan which could potentially be a month away or will they start that immediately on Thursday?
Read Also: Mayo Clinic Breast Cancer Symptoms