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
Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer
The warning signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women.
The most common signs are:
- A change in the look or feel of the breast OR
- A change in the look or feel of the nipple OR
- Nipple discharge
If you have any of the warning signs described below, see a health care provider .
If you dont have a provider, one of the best ways to find a good one is to get a referral from a trusted family member or friend.
If thats not an option, call your health department, a clinic or a nearby hospital. If you have insurance, your insurance company may also have a list of providers in your area.
Learn more;about finding a health care provider.;
In most cases, these changes are not cancer.
One example is breast pain. Pain is more common with benign breast conditions than with breast cancer, but the only way to know for sure is to get it checked.
If the change turns out to be breast cancer, its best to find it at an early stage, when the chances of survival are highest.
Fat Necrosis Vs Oil Cysts
Oil cysts can also cause a lump in your breast. Oil cysts are benign, or noncancerous, fluid-filled sacs that can appear in your breast. Like other cysts, they will most likely feel smooth, squishy, and flexible. Oil cysts can form for no reason, but they often appear after breast surgery or trauma. As your breast heals from surgery or trauma, breast fat necrosis can melt instead of hardening into scar tissue. The melted fat can collect in one place in your breast and your body will cause a layer of calcium to form around it. This melted fat surrounded by calcium is an oil cyst.
If you have any oil cyst, the lump is probably the only symptom youll notice. These cysts can show up on mammograms, but theyre usually diagnosed with a breast ultrasound.
In many cases, an oil cyst will go away on its own, so your doctor might recommend watchful waiting. If the cyst is painful or is causing you anxiety, a doctor can use needle aspiration to drain the fluid. This usually deflates the cyst.
Nipple Retraction Or Inversion
Breast cancer can cause cell changes behind the nipple. These changes can result in the nipple inverting and reversing inward into the breast, or it may look different in terms of its size.
The appearance of the nipples can often alter during ovulation or other parts of the menstrual cycle, but people should see a doctor about any new nipple changes.
Signs Of Breast Cancer Recurrence
Despite initial treatment and success, breast cancer can sometimes come back. This is called recurrence. Recurrence happens when a small number of cells escape the initial treatment.
Symptoms of a recurrence in the same place as the first breast cancer are very similar to symptoms of the first breast cancer. They include:
- a new breast lump
- redness or swelling of the breast
- a new thickening near the mastectomy scar
If breast cancer comes back regionally, it means that the cancer has returned to the lymph nodes or near to the original cancer but not exactly the same place. The symptoms may be slightly different.
Symptoms of a regional recurrence may include:
- lumps in your lymph nodes or near the collarbone
- chest pain
- pain or loss of sensation in your arm or shoulder
- swelling in your arm on the same side as the original breast cancer
If youve had a mastectomy or other surgery related to breast cancer, you might get lumps or bumps caused by scar tissue in the reconstructed breast. This isnt cancer, but you should let your doctor know about them so they can be monitored.
As with any cancer, early detection and treatment are major factors in determining the outcome. Breast cancer is easily treated and usually curable when detected in the earliest of stages.
The best way to fight breast cancer is early detection. Talk with your doctor about when you should start scheduling regular mammograms.
Breast Changes During Your Lifetime That Are Not Cancer
Most women have changes in the breasts at different times during their lifetime.
- Before or during your menstrual periods, your breasts may feel swollen, tender, or painful. You may also feel one or more lumps during this time because of extra fluid in your breasts. Your health care provider may have you come back for a return visit at a different time in your menstrual cycle to see if the lump has changed.
- During pregnancy, your breasts may feel lumpy. This is usually because the glands that produce milk are increasing in number and getting larger. While breastfeeding, you may get a condition called mastitis. This happens when a milk duct becomes blocked. Mastitis causes the breast to look red and feel lumpy, warm, and tender. It may be caused by an infection and it is often treated with antibiotics. Sometimes the duct may need to be drained.
- As you approach menopause, your hormone levels change. This can make your breasts feel tender, even when you are not having your menstrual period. Your breasts may also feel more lumpy than they did before.
- If you are taking hormones your breasts may become more dense. This can make a mammogram harder to interpret. Be sure to let your health care provider know if you are taking hormones.
- After menopause, your hormone levels drop. You may stop having any lumps, pain, or nipple discharge that you used to have.
Breast Pain Not Linked To Periods
Its often unclear what causes non-cyclical breast pain.
It can be related to:
- a benign breast condition
- previous surgery to the breast;
- injury to the breast
- having larger breasts;
- a side effect from a drug treatment, such as certain antidepressant drugs and some herbal remedies such as ginseng
Stress and anxiety can also be linked to breast pain.;
Non-cyclical breast pain may be continuous or it may come and go. It 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.;
Non-cyclical breast pain often goes away by itself over time. This happens in about half the women who experience it.
By Step Guide On How To Perform Breast Self Exam At Home:
Look at your breasts in the mirror Position your shoulders straight and place your arms on your hips. See if your breasts have their usual size, shape, color and whether they have visible swelling or change in shape. Check that they dont have dimpling or puckering of the skin, or that they became red, sore, swollen or have rash. Also check your nipples to see if they became inverted or changed their position.
Raise your arms and look for the same changes. Squeeze the nipple and check if fluid comes out of one or both nipples. The discharge can be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood.
Check your breast when lying down Use your right hand to feel your left breast and then vice versa. When feeling your breast with your hands, keep your fingers together and use the first few finger pads applying small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.
Check yourself in the shower Many women find that it is easier to check for changes in the breast when their hands are wet and slippery with soap and water. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements as when lying down and check for any lumps or thickening in your underarm area too.
If you find something suspicious with your breast dont panic, as most of the lumps are not cancerous and many breast changes are not associated with cancer, but for your own peace of mind call your doctor if you have any concerns.
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Changes To The Breast Or Chest Area
After breast-conserving surgery or a mastectomy, with or without reconstruction, be aware of any changes to either side, such as:;
- swelling on your chest, in your armpit or around your collarbone
- a change in shape or size
- a change in skin texture, such as puckering or dimpling
- redness or a rash on or around the nipple or on the skin
- liquid that comes from the nipple without squeezing it
- the nipple has become inverted or looks different, for example changed its position or shape
- swelling in the arm or hand
- a lump or thickening that feels different
How Is A Breast Infection Diagnosed
In a breastfeeding woman, a doctor can typically diagnose mastitis based on a physical examination and a review of your symptoms. Your doctor will also want to rule out whether the infection has formed an abscess that needs to be drained, which can be done during the physical exam.
If the infection keeps coming back, breast milk may be sent to a laboratory to determine what bacteria might be present.
Other tests may be necessary to determine the cause if you have a breast infection and youre not breastfeeding. Testing may include a mammogram or even a biopsy of breast tissue to rule out breast cancer. A mammogram is an imaging test that uses low-energy X-rays to examine the breast. A breast biopsy involves the removal of a small tissue sample from the breast for lab testing to determine if any cancerous cell changes are present.
If you dont already have a primary care doctor, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.
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.
Breast Pain Linked To Periods
Many women feel discomfort and lumpiness in both breasts a week or so before their period.;
The pain can vary from mild to severe and the breasts can also be tender and sore to touch.;;
You may experience heaviness, tenderness, a burning, prickling or stabbing pain, or a feeling of tightness.
The pain usually affects both breasts but it can affect just one breast. It can also spread to the armpit, down the arm and to the shoulder blade.;
Cyclical breast pain is linked to changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle. The pain often goes away once a period starts. In some women, this type of pain will go away by itself, but it can come back.
This type of pain usually stops after the menopause, though women taking hormone replacement therapy can also have breast pain.;;
Breast pain can also be associated with starting to take or changing contraception that contains hormones.
Coping With Breast Pain
Breast pain can be very distressing, and many women worry that they may have breast cancer. In most cases breast pain will be the result of normal changes in the breasts.;
Even though you may feel reassured that your breast pain is normal and you dont have breast cancer, the pain often remains. This can be upsetting, especially if your specialist cant tell you the exact cause of your breast pain.;
Women affected by breast pain may feel many different emotions, including fear, frustration or helplessness. Although understanding more about your breast pain wont cure it, it may help you to get back some control over your life.;
Having severe, long-lasting breast pain can sometimes affect a womans daily activities which may cause anxiety and, for some, depression. However, this isnt the case for most women and their pain can be helped or managed.
Having breast pain doesnt increase your risk of breast cancer. However, its still important to be breast aware and go back to your GP if the pain increases or changes, or you notice any other changes in your breasts.;
How To Preform Breast Self
There has been some debate over the years regarding just how valuable breast self exam is in detecting the early stages of breast cancer and increasing the rate of survival. However many breast cancer organizations still believe that breast self exam is a useful strategy, especially when combined with regular physical exams by a doctor and screening methods.
The best way to detect the changes that arent associated with pain or strange sensations is by learning about the appearance and size of your breasts. Breast cancer organizations recommend sitting in front of a mirror and examine the structure of the breast. Use your hands to lift the breast and check the variability of skin stretching on both sides.
Dont forget to do this often to make sure you dont miss any sudden changes in appearance. Any of these symptoms should be analyzed by a medical professional for a conclusive diagnosis. If you are not professionally examined, youll be left in a worrying state of uncertainty. Hopefully everything is fine, but even if it isnt, detecting breast cancer in the earlier stages could very well make your chances for survival exponentially better.
Invasive Breast Cancer Symptoms
Most breast cancers start in the ducts, or the tubes that carry milk to the nipple, or in the lobules, the little clusters of sacs where breast milk is made. Invasive breast cancer refers to breast cancer that spreads from the original site to other areas of the breast, the lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body. In these cancers that form in the ducts or lobules, invasive ductal carcinoma ;or invasive lobular carcinoma , the cancer spreads from the ducts or lobules to other tissue. Depending on the stage, you may notice symptoms.
Invasive breast cancer symptoms may include:
- A lump or mass in the breast
- Swelling of all or part of the breast, even if no lump is felt
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- A lump or swelling in the underarm lymph nodes
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.
What Can You Do For Breast Pain
Most of thetime, breast pain isnt severe enough to require medication, Dr. Pederson says.If diagnostic tests such as ultrasound are normal, usuallynothing further needs to be done, she notes. We often recommendconservative steps first, such as cutting out caffeine, to see if symptomsimprove.
An herbal supplement called evening primrose oil offers relief for some women, too. Since its an herbal supplement, she says, theres not a lot of clinical research behind it. But small-scale studies have supported it as being clinically effective.;Over-the-counter topical pain relief cream may help too.;
For more severe cases, medications are available. For example, a topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug gel called diclofenac offers pain relief without the same long-term concerns of oral NSAIDs.
Very rarely,doctors will prescribe tamoxifen for breast pain. Tamoxifen is an anti-estrogenmedication used to prevent and treat breast cancer, and studies have shown itto be effectivefor reducing breast pain. But it does come with potential side effects,including hot flashes and a small risk of blood clots. Thats why we alwaysweigh the benefits against the potential side effects, Dr. Pederson says.
For manywomen, simply knowing that breast pain is common and that most of the timeits not associated with cancer is enough to bring peace of mind. But whenyou have pain, dont hesitate to get an exam and find answers.
What If The Lump Feels Like A Ridge What If I Have A Pea
You should have a familiarity with your body and what the breast normally feels like, including its normal shape, appearance, and texture. Generally, women are advised to analyze their breasts in the shower with soapy fingers to get a nice feel of the normal tissues. If you do that and have some familiarity with your normal breast tissue, and then find something different, you should reach out to your medical team.
Breast Changes Of Concern
Some breast changes can be felt by a woman or her health care provider, but most can be detected only during an imaging procedure such as a mammogram, MRI, or ultrasound. Whether a breast change was found by your doctor or you noticed a change, its important to follow up with your doctor to have the change checked and properly diagnosed.
Check with your health care provider if your breast looks or feels different, or if you notice one of these symptoms:
- Lump or firm feeling in your breast or under your arm. Lumps come in different shapes and sizes. Normal breast tissue can sometimes feel lumpy. Doing breast self-exams can help you learn how your breasts normally feel and make it easier to notice and find any changes, but breast self-exams are not a substitute for mammograms.
- Nipple changes or discharge. Nipple discharge may be different colors or textures. It can be caused by birth control pills, some medicines, and infections. But because it can also be a sign of cancer, it should always be checked.
- Skin that is itchy, red, scaled, dimpled or puckered