Breast pain is very common. Almost 80% of women will experience this sometime in their lives. It is reassuring to know that more than 90% of breast cancers are on the contrary painless on presentation.
Causes of Breast Pain
There are 2 main types of breast pain.
Cyclical & Non-cyclical
Cyclical Breast Pain
Breast pain that is part of a normal menstrual cycle is known as “cyclical breast pain”. Women may experience fullness, discomfort, tenderness in their breast a week or so prior to their period. This often goes away once the menses start. The pain can affect one or both breasts and can spread to the armpit, down the arm and the shoulder blade.
This is linked to changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle, which mainly affects pre-menopausal women. The hormonal changes make the breasts more sensitive, which in turn cause pain. Pain can also be associated with consuming contraceptive pills, certain anti-depressant drugs, herbal remedies like ginseng, or even stress.
Non-cyclical Breast Pain
There are also two types of non-cyclical breast pain.
True non-cyclical breast pain comes from the breast and is not related to the menstrual cycle.
Chest wall pain appears to be felt over the breast but actually comes from the muscles or rib bones.
Both types can result in continuous pain or pain that comes intermittently and can affect women both before and after menopause. It may feel like a burning, prickling, stabbing pain or sensation of tightness. This can last from a few minutes to a few days. It can affect either one breast or both at the same time.