How to Prepare for Your Breast Pain Appointment

woman with breast pain
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What should you do before your breast pain appointment so that you are fully prepared? Taking a little time ahead of your appointment can help ensure that you give your doctor the full picture and ask any important questions.

Breast Pain

If you have breast pain, whether pain that comes or goes or is constant, it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor. There are many different causes of breast pain which can be cyclical (vary with your period) or noncyclical (does not change with your period) in nature.

It's also important to talk to your doctor if you ever feel a breast lump or have a skin rash on your breast that doesn't seem to be going away.

What should you know and what should you do before your appointment to make sure you get the best care possible?

Choose the Right Doctor for You

If you have never been diagnosed with breast cancer, start with your general practitioner. This could be your family doctor, your internist, or your gynecologist if you regularly see her. If you need further evaluation, this doctor can refer you to a specialist.

If you are pregnant or recently had a baby, it is a good idea to first see and talk to your obstetrician/gynecologist. Breast changes due to pregnancy or breastfeeding may be treated to give you quick relief. It's important to note that breast cancer does sometimes occur in pregnancy (roughly 1 woman out of 3000 pregnancies,) so don't dismiss any symptoms which concern you.

If you have had recurring problems with breast cysts or fibroadenomas it can be helpful to see the doctor who has been treating you with these conditions.

For those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, it is best to make an appointment with your oncologist and get a clear picture of what's up with your health.

In any case, don't delay long. Choose a doctor and get a checkup. If your breast pain is due to minor causes, you'll be relieved, and if it is due to serious causes, you can start treatment.

Prepare Your Story

Once you have an appointment set up, take some time to write down your story. You should record your symptoms, how you would describe these (see below,) when you first noted your pain and anything which seems to make it better or worse. It's also a good idea to note the date of your most recent mammogram, breast ultrasound, or any other studies you have had.

Also list medical concerns which are seemingly unrelated to your breast pain, such as your current prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and any nutritional supplements you take. Some medications and supplements can lead to breast pain in some people.

While you're at it, make a list of your present stressors, including family events, professional concerns, recent illnesses or injuries.

Get Specific About Your Pain

Unfortunately, the only way your doctor can really understand your pain is with a thorough description of your symptoms. Some things you may wish to consider include:

  • The location of your pain, whether it is one or both breasts, and if you have any symptoms in your armpits
  • Whether your breast or breasts hurts constantly, periodically, or occasionally
  • The type of pain, whether sharp, dull, stabbing, cyclical, noncyclical
  • The duration of your pain, whether it has been present for hours, days, weeks, months, or years
  • The severity of your pain on a scale of 1 to 10
  • Whether you have a breast lump associated with the pain
  • Any changes in your skin over your breast, whether it feels thick, is discolored, has a rash, or if you note any swelling
  • Whether your nipple has developed any discharge or changed shape

Be Ready for Testing

You can expect to have a clinical breast exam during a breast pain appointment. If you've kept up on your monthly breast self-exams, be sure to show your doctor where you have noticed pain or changes in your breast that concern you. A manual exam may not reveal the exact cause of your pain, so don't be alarmed if you are referred for a mammogram or a breast ultrasound.

If your nipple has discharge, then you may be sent for a galactogram, so a sample of the fluid can be examined. When none of those tests are conclusive, a biopsy may be scheduled, to rule out breast cancer or to confirm a benign breast lump. It is important to keep these follow-up appointments, so you can get the proper diagnosis and treatment for your breast pain.

Bottom Line on Preparing for Your Breast Pain Appointment

Taking some time before your breast pain appointment to write down your symptoms so that you don't forget to bring up important information. Include information about your medical history in case your medications or other health conditions could be related to your pain. It's a good idea to arrive prepared to undergo further testing as well so that you aren't shocked when these tests are ordered. There are a great number of causes of breast pain, but with a careful history, physical exam, and sometimes additional testing your doctor should be able to relieve your anxiety or help you get started on treatment to resolve the pain.

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