If You Have Breast Pain Should You Worry?

When to be concerned about breast pain

Young woman lying on couch worried about breast pain
Oliver Rossi/Getty

If you're experiencing breast pain you may wonder if you should worry. After all, what could be causing your breasts to be sore, and most importantly, could it be breast cancer? There are many causes of breast pain that can be either associated with your menstrual cycle (cyclic breast pain) or independent of your period (noncyclical breast pain). Most of the time breast pain is due to hormonal changes or benign breast disease. That said, if you've heard that breast cancer doesn't hurt, that's not always true, and some people do experience breast pain before they are diagnosed. Let's look at what could be the cause of your pain, when to be concerned that it could be cancer, and what steps you can take to get the answers you need.

Breast Pain is Common

The Many Causes of Breast Pain

Breast Pain and Breast Cancer

Breast pain in the era of Pink Ribbon Awareness campaigns is really disturbing. Most of us instantly worry, "Is my breast pain a symptom of breast cancer?" Even men with breast pain may get worried about their own breast health. Pain in both breasts or a sharp pain in just one breast may send us scurrying to the bathroom to do a quick breast self-exam. Suddenly every little bump, bruise, and hair follicle on your breast skin seem ominous and important.

Even when we've heard the statistics about 80% of all breast lumps being benign, when a lump or bump or odd rash is bothering our own breasts, it's very hard to remain calm. So take a deep breath and slow down, because I have good news for you. Most breast pain is not related to breast cancer. There are many benign breast conditions - many of which can cause breast tenderness, aching, swelling, lumps, shooting pain, and even nipple discharge. Once you figure out if your breast pain may be hormonal or non-cyclical, you can use some home care to alleviate the pain - or you can call your doctor for help.

But the flip side of the good news is the bad news: since breast cancer rarely causes pain, it can sneak up on you, if you aren't aware of your breast health, or you aren't being regular about your self-exams and annual screenings. That is why you need to know about your family health history, your personal risk factors, and what healthy choices you can make to reduce your risk. So its okay to have breast pain, if you take care to treat your breasts right. Get your doctor's help when home care doesn't reduce your breast pain, and remember that those twinges and tenderness most likely are not breast cancer.

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