Breast Pain: 10 Reasons Your Breasts May Hurt

You Asked: Why Do My Boobs Hurt?

Breast Pain: 10 Reasons Your Breasts May Hurt | Johns Hopkins Medicine

From a dull ache to a sharp stab, breasts hurt in a hundred different ways for a hundred different reasons. For many women, those myriad aches and stabs are the results of normal, healthy hormone fluctuations related to their menstrual cycles.

“Pain is most common during that period of a woman’s cycle just before she menstruates, when hormones estrogen and progesterone peak,” says Karthik Ghosh, MD, director of the breast clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

You probably already knew that. But when your hormones go haywire, why do your breasts feel beat up? Rising estrogen levels stimulate the breasts’ milk ducts, while spiking progesterone does the same to a woman’s milk glands. Both can result in swelling and pain. Progesterone also causes fluid retention, which can lead to a feeling of heaviness or tenderness, Ghosh says.

With the onset of menstruation, levels of those hormones drop off, Ghosh says. For that reason, breast pain or tenderness tends to subside as soon as a woman starts her period.

Because oral contraceptives iron out those hormonal peaks and valleys, women on birth control often don’t experience this monthly ebb and flow of aching.

(But when women first start a contraceptive the pill, some pain is common.)

Many women also experience cysts, which result when pockets of fluid form within the ducts of the breast. These cysts can sometimes be painful, says Dr. Susan Harvey, director of the Johns Hopkins Breast Imaging Section.

Young women in puberty, pregnant women and older women nearing menopause may all experience breast pain due to hormone fluctuations, says Dr. Bonmyong Lee, Harvey’s colleague and an assistant professor of radiology at Johns Hopkins. Particularly during the early stages of menopause, women who may have never had pain or cysts may suddenly start to experience both, Lee says.

Apart from these hormone-related issues, Ghosh says anything that causes chest wall muscle soreness— starting a new workout—can cause what’s called secondary pain in the breasts. Many women who exercise regularly experience discomfort and even pain in their breasts from the constant movement.

A survey of close to 1,400 women registered for the 2012 London Marathon, published in the journal The British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2013, reported that over a third of the women said their breasts were often sore. Though exercise may not have been the cause of breast pain for all the women, the researchers say it was a predominant factor.

Even so, 44% of the women said they did not take any measures to relieve the pain even though it was uncomfortable.

Pain can also be caused by a common type of inflammation, called costochondritus, which affects the place where a woman’s ribs and sternum come together. Even an unsupportive brassiere can allow the breasts to pull on the chest wall, leading to pain, Ghosh says.

One condition that tends not to cause pain is cancer. For women who may notice a lump that is sensitive or painful, it’s more ly a benign cyst, Ghosh says. Still, she recommends seeing a doctor if you find a lump, painful or otherwise.

There are several less common or unproven causes of breast pain, from infection to caffeine consumption. So how can you determine whether to worry or brush it off? If the pain is concentrated in one part of your breast and doesn’t subside after a few weeks, see someone, Harvey says. You should also visit a doctor if your skin is flushed or red, which may be a sign of an infection.

“There’s no golden rule when it comes to identifying specific types of breast pain,” Ghosh says. “If it worries you or seems the ordinary, see a doctor.”

Read next: Should I Dry Brush My Skin?

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Do breasts hurt when they grow? Breast development for teens

Breast Pain: 10 Reasons Your Breasts May Hurt | Johns Hopkins Medicine
Share on PinterestBody changes may be daunting, and having questions about these changes is perfectly normal.

It is normal for girls and teenagers to have lots of questions about their breasts as they start to develop.

Seeing the body change can be daunting, and it is perfectly normal to worry about what to expect.

Here are some common questions and answers about breast development to help guide teenagers through the process.

Should breasts hurt when they grow?

Many young women experience pain as their breasts grow and this is nothing to worry about.

Breasts develop as the hormones estrogen and progesterone are released at puberty.

These hormones make the breast tissue grow. As it does, the surrounding skin may stretch, which is one reason breasts can hurt when they grow.

The hormones that stimulate breast growth are another reason they may hurt. Hormones change the levels of fluid in the breast tissue, which can make the breasts more sensitive and even hurt.

If a young woman has started her period, her breasts may also hurt around her menstrual cycle. These aches are due to hormonal changes and are a normal part of the menstrual cycle.

Why do red marks appear on breasts?

As breast tissue grows, the surrounding skin has to stretch to accommodate the increasing size.

Sometimes the skin does not stretch fast enough and the middle layer tears slightly, causing red stretch marks to appear. This happens to many, if not most, teenagers and should not be a cause of embarrassment.

There are lots of creams available in the pharmacy to help reduce the appearance of these marks. Over time, the lines fade to white on their own and are not especially noticeable.

Is it normal for breasts to be different sizes?

It is perfectly normal for each of a woman’s two breasts to grow at different rates. Even when fully developed, they may be different sizes. Having breasts of unequal size is rarely a health concern, even if they are a whole cup size different.

Unevenly sized breasts are not normally something that anyone else would notice, but young women can sometimes be self-conscious of this difference. Using padding on one side of a bra can help young women feel more confident.

Could a breast lump mean there is cancer?

Share on PinterestA breast lump found while breasts are growing may be harmless. However, a doctor should be consulted if there are concerns.

When breasts begin to grow, they appear as a lump underneath the nipple. This is a normal part of the development process.

Most lumps are fibroadenomas or an overgrowth of connective tissue in the breast. Teenage lumps are cancerous in very few cases.

While it is ly that a breast lump that is found while breasts are growing is harmless, women of all ages are advised to be familiar with their breasts. This will allow them to spot any changes that occur.

When breasts are fully developed, women should self-examine them regularly. If they find lumps that are not normally there once their breasts have stopped growing, it is a good idea to speak to a doctor. Usually, the doctor can quickly rule out cancer.

Can young men develop breast tissue?

While it does not happen to everyone, it is not unusual for young men to develop some breast tissue on their chests as they go through puberty.

This is called gynecomastia. It is due to hormonal changes, and any breast tissue that grows is normally temporary.

Despite not being uncommon, gynecomastia can be upsetting for young men if they do not understand why it is happening. If a young man is concerned about this, they should speak to their doctor for advice.

When a young woman starts to develop breasts, she may spot the following signs:

  • firm lumps, called breast buds, felt underneath the nipple
  • the chest feeling tender around each nipple
  • itchiness around the nipples and chest area

There are five stages of breast development. These stages start from birth and progress as a young woman goes through puberty.

  1. The tip of the nipple is raised from birth, but the rest of the chest is flat.
  2. Breast buds form as firm lumps under each nipple, raised from the chest. As this happens, the area of darker skin around the nipple called the areola may get bigger.
  3. The breasts get slightly larger as breast tissue develops.
  4. The areola and nipple raise up, forming a second mound above the breast tissue.
  5. The breast becomes rounded with only the nipple raised. This is the final stage of development.

Breasts may continue to change and develop over a person’s lifetime. Hormonal cycles, pregnancy, breast-feeding, and menopause all affect the breasts.

Share on PinterestOnce the breasts have developed, choosing a correctly fitted bra is recommended.

Once a young woman has developed her breasts, it is important that she looks after them, as with any other part of her body.

Making sure bras or tops fit well, if she decides to wear them for support, is important. It is also recommended to have some time without wearing a bra, so that the skin can breathe.

Women also need to check their breasts regularly for lumps and other warning signs of breast cancer. A doctor can explain the process, or women can read guides online.

Breast pains and aches often pass quickly. However, if they do not go away on their own, there are treatments that can help. These include over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen, and pain-relieving gels.

Wearing a supportive bra top or sports bra when exercising can also minimize pain.

If a teenager finds that pain when their breasts are growing is difficult to control, they should speak to a doctor. A doctor may prescribe medication to help control hormone levels if the pain is particularly bad.

Rarely, a young woman may find a lump in her breast that is not explained by the normal stages of breast development. If this happens, it is always best to speak to a doctor to rule out any health concerns.


Breast Pain (Mastalgia)

Breast Pain: 10 Reasons Your Breasts May Hurt | Johns Hopkins Medicine

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Mastalgia is breast pain. There are 2 main types of mastalgia:

  • Cyclical breast pain. The pain is linked to menstrual periods.
  • Noncyclic breast pain. The pain may come from the breast. Or it may come from somewhere else, such as nearby muscles or joints, and may be felt in the breast.

The pain can range from minor discomfort to severely disabling pain in some cases. Many women with breast pain are afraid they may have breast cancer. But breast pain is rarely linked to breast cancer. It should not be considered a possible symptom of breast cancer. 

What is cyclical breast pain?

The most common type of breast pain is linked to the menstrual cycle. It is nearly always hormonal. Some women begin to have pain around the time of ovulation. The pain continues until the start of their menstrual cycle.

The pain may be barely noticeable. Or it may be so severe that you can’t wear tight-fitting clothing or handle close contact of any kind. The pain may be felt in only one breast.

Or it may be felt as a radiating feeling in the underarm area.

Some healthcare providers have women chart their breast pain to figure out if the pain is cyclical or not. After a few months, the link between the menstrual cycle and breast pain will appear.

Researchers continue to study the role that hormones play in cyclical mastalgia. One study has suggested that some women with this condition have less progesterone than they do estrogen in the second half of the menstrual cycle.

Other studies have found that an abnormality in the hormone prolactin may affect breast pain. Hormones can also affect cyclical breast pain due to stress.

Breast pain can increase or change its pattern with the hormone changes that happen during times of stress.

Hormones may not provide the total answer to cyclical breast pain. That’s because the pain is often more severe in one breast than in the other. Hormones would tend to affect both breasts equally. Many researchers believe that the answer may be a combination of hormonal activity and something in the breast that responds to this activity. More research is needed.

What are the treatments for cyclical breast pain?

Treatment for cyclical breast pain will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

Treatments vary greatly and may include the following:

  • Not having caffeine
  • Taking vitamin E
  • Eating a low-fat diet

In some cases, various supplemental hormones and hormone blockers are also prescribed. These may include:

  • Birth control pills
  • Bromocriptine (which blocks prolactin in the hypothalamus)
  • Danazol, a male hormone
  • Thyroid hormones
  • Tamoxifen, an estrogen blocker

Supplemental hormones and hormone blockers may have side effects. In addition, the risks and benefits of such treatment should be carefully discussed with your healthcare provider.

What is noncyclic breast pain?

Noncyclic breast pain is fairly uncommon, feels different than cyclical mastalgia, and does not vary with the menstrual cycle. Generally, the pain is present all the time and is in only 1 specific location.

One cause of noncyclic breast pain is trauma, or a blow to the breast. Other causes can include arthritic pain in the chest cavity and in the neck, which radiates down to the breast.

What are the treatments for noncyclic breast pain?

It’s more difficult to figure out the best treatment for noncyclic breast pain. That’s because it’s hard to know exactly where the pain is coming from. In addition, the pain is not hormonal. Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

Your healthcare provider will do a physical exam and may order a mammogram. In some cases, a biopsy of the area is also needed.

If it is found that the pain is caused by a cyst, then the cyst will be aspirated. This means that a small needle will be used to remove the liquid contents of the cyst.

Depending on where the pain starts, treatment may include pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medicines, and compresses.

One of the best things you can do to protect and improve your health is to stay informed. Your Health is a FREE e-newsletter that serves as your smart, simple connection to the world-class expertise of Johns Hopkins.


Breast pain and pregnancy: Causes and symptoms

Breast Pain: 10 Reasons Your Breasts May Hurt | Johns Hopkins Medicine

  • Is it pregnancy?
  • Period vs. pregnancy
  • Pregnancy symptoms
  • Treatments
  • Summary

A woman may experience many symptoms of the body’s changes during pregnancy, from stuffy noses to backaches. One common effect of pregnancy is breast pain.

Pregnancy causes hormonal changes, which can affect the breasts. For many, breast pain is most common in the first trimester, though it can occur at any stage during pregnancy and lactation.

While pregnancy can be the source of breast pain, other possible causes include:

Note that breast pain is very rarely due to breast cancer. It most ly results from hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle.

Share on PinterestBreast pain is a common effect of pregnancy.

The most telling sign of pregnancy is typically a missed period. But some indications can appear even sooner.

For some women, breast pain is the first noticeable effect of pregnancy, and it can show up within 2 weeks of conception.

Other early effects of pregnancy include:

  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • more frequent urination
  • changes in tastes for food and drink

Women who experience these signs and breast pain should consider taking a pregnancy test.

Learn more about the early signs of pregnancy here.

Pregnancy and PMS can have some of the same effects on the body.

The Office on Women’s Health report that 90% of all menstruating people develop some symptoms of PMS, including swollen or tender breasts. These symptoms usually occur 7–14 days before a period starts.

Pregnancy can also cause breasts to be swollen, sore, and tender. In addition, both PMS and pregnancy can cause the nipples to be more sensitive.

However, breast pain and soreness from pregnancy can be much more intense than that caused by PMS. Pregnancy-related breast pain is also ly to last longer.

When pregnancy is causing breast soreness, the veins on the breasts may be more visible than usual and the areolas may be larger and bumpier.

Learn more about how PMS and early pregnancy can feel similar, as well as the differences.

Sensitivity or pain in the breasts is a common effect of pregnancy.

Researchers found that 76.2% of women who participated in the study experienced it. Breast pain and sensitivity was the third most common experience, after nausea and fatigue.

Breast changes by trimester

During the first trimester, which runs from the first week after conception to the 12th week, hormones fluctuate, changing the body in many ways.

Shifts in levels of the hormones progesterone and estrogen, which prepare a woman’s body for breastfeeding, bring noticeable changes to the breasts. These changes can include swelling and soreness, and the nipples may become more erect.

In the second trimester, which runs from weeks 13–28, the skin around the nipples can darken.

In the third and final trimester, running from weeks 29–40 or delivery, the breasts may start hurting again. As the body prepares for breastfeeding, small amounts of colostrum, a forerunner to breast milk, may leak from the breasts.

The nipples and breasts can also become bigger just before a woman goes into labor.

Before starting any treatment for breast pain, discuss the issue with a healthcare provider.

The most effective treatment will depend on the underlying cause. If a doctor finds that pregnancy is ly the cause of the pain, treatments that they might otherwise recommend, such as birth control pills, would be inappropriate.

A pregnancy bra can help keep larger, more sensitive breasts as comfortable and supported as possible. Sleeping in a bra can also help reduce discomfort.

Wearing a sports bra can also help when breasts are swollen or sensitive. Hot or cold compresses may provide some relief, as well.

For people who experience breast pain due to their menstrual cycles, the following practices may also help reduce discomfort:

  • adopting a low-fat diet
  • limiting or eliminating caffeine
  • taking certain supplements, such as calcium and vitamins B-6 and E
  • exploring complementary or alternative treatments, such as evening primrose oil
  • using over-the-counter or prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications — NSAIDs — to reduce pain
  • taking medication to block or increase levels of specific hormones

Read about other treatments for PMS symptoms here.

While breast pain can result from pregnancy, it is also a common symptom of PMS.

Anyone who suspects that they may be pregnant should take a pregnancy test. Learn more about when to take a pregnancy test here.

Breast pain linked to the menstrual cycle often fades when a period starts and resolves completely after menopause. In the meantime, over-the-counter pain medications, supplements, and other treatments can help.

Pregnancy may narrow treatment options, but certain strategies, such as sleeping in a pregnancy bra and using compresses, can help.

Anyone who experiences severe or persistent breast pain should speak to a doctor about treatments.

  • Pregnancy / Obstetrics
  • Women's Health / Gynecology
  • Parenthood


Breast Pain: 10 Reasons Your Breasts May Hurt

Breast Pain: 10 Reasons Your Breasts May Hurt | Johns Hopkins Medicine

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Most women experience some form of breast pain at one time or another. Breast pain is typically easy to treat, but on rarer occasions it can be a sign of something more serious.

Medical director of the Suburban Hospital Breast Center Pamela Wright, M.D., discusses the most common causes of breast pain (mastalgia), their treatments and when to see a doctor:

  1. Hormones are making your breasts sore.

    Hormonal fluctuations are the number one reason women have breast pain. Breasts become sore three to five days prior to the beginning of a menstrual period and stop hurting after it starts. This is due to a rise in estrogen and progesterone right before your period. These hormones cause your breasts to swell and can lead to tenderness.

    “It’s normal to have breast tenderness that comes and goes around the time of your period,” says Wright. “It’s nothing to worry about.”

    If you become pregnant, your breasts may remain sore during the first trimester as hormone production ramps up. Breast tenderness is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy for many women.

    Steps you can take to minimize sore breasts include:

    • Eliminate caffeine
    • Eat a low-fat diet
    • Reduce salt intake
    • Avoid smoking
    • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever
    • Ask your doctor if switching birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy medications may help
  2. You have a breast injury.

    any part of your body, breasts can be injured. This can happen because of an accident, while playing sports or from breast surgery. You may feel a sharp, shooting pain at the time of injury. Tenderness can linger for a few days up to several weeks after trauma to the breast. See your doctor if the pain doesn’t improve or you notice any of these signs:

    • Severe swelling
    • A lump in the breast
    • Redness and warmth, which could indicate an infection
    • A bruise on your breast that doesn’t go away
  3. Your breasts hurt due to an unsupportive bra.

    Without proper support, the ligaments that connect breasts to the chest wall can become overstretched and painful by the end of the day. The result is achy, sore breasts. This may be especially noticeable during exercise. Make sure your bra is the correct size and provides good support.

  4. Breast pain is really coming from your chest wall.

    What feels breast pain may actually be coming from your chest wall. This is the area of muscle, tissue and bone that surrounds and protects your heart and lungs. Common causes of chest wall pain include:

    • A pulled muscle
    • Inflammation around the ribs
    • Trauma to the chest wall (getting hit in the chest)
    • Bone fracture
  5. Breastfeeding is causing breast tenderness.

    Breastfeeding can sometimes be the source of breast pain. Some of the things you can experience while nursing include:

    • Painful nipples from an improper latch (the way a baby latches on to suck)
    • Tingling sensation during letdown (when the milk starts to flow to the baby)
    • Nipple soreness due to being bitten or having dry, cracked skin or an infection

    If you have pain while breastfeeding, it’s best to talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant. They can help you troubleshoot the problem while maintaining your milk supply. 

  6. You have a breast infection.

    Breastfeeding women are most ly to get breast infections (mastitis), but they occasionally occur in other women, too. If you have a breast infection, you may have a fever and symptoms in one breast, including:

    If you think you may have a breast infection, it’s important to see a doctor. Treatment typically includes antibiotics and pain relievers.

  7. Breast pain could be a medication side effect.

    Some medications may cause breast pain as a side effect. Talk to your doctor about the medications you’re on and if this could be the case for you. Some drugs with this known side effect include:

    • Oxymethone, used to treat some forms of anemia
    • Chlorpromazine, used to treat various mental health conditions
    • Water pills (diuretics), drugs that increase urination and are used to treat kidney and heart disease and high blood pressure
    • Hormone therapies (birth control pills, hormone replacement or infertility treatments)
    • Digitalis, prescribed for heart failure
    • Methyldopa, used to treat high blood pressure
  8. You have a painful breast cyst.

    If a tender lump suddenly appears in your breast, you may have a cyst, says Wright. “These fluid-filled lumps aren’t dangerous and often don’t need to be treated as they may resolve on their own. But it’s important to get any lump in your breast evaluated by a doctor.”

    To diagnose a cyst, your doctor may recommend a mammogram, ultrasound or aspiration (drawing fluid from the lump). Draining fluid from the cyst is also a form of treatment. If the cyst isn’t bothersome, you may not need any treatment at all.

    Learn more about breast cysts and other noncancerous breast lumps.

  9. You’re experiencing painful complications from breast implants. 

    Some women have complications with breast implants, whether made of silicone or saline. One of the most common causes of pain after breast augmentation surgery is capsular contracture, when scar tissue forms too tightly around implants. Breast pain can also be an indication that one of your implants has ruptured. Talk to your doctor about any pain you’re having to determine if it could be related to the breast implants.

  10. Breast pain can sometimes be a sign of breast cancer.

    It’s unusual for breast cancer to cause pain, says Wright, but not impossible. Inflammatory breast cancer often causes pain but it’s rare, accounting for 1% to 5% of breast cancer cases in the United States. Symptoms of this aggressive disease often come on suddenly and progress rapidly. Inflammatory breast cancer may cause the breast to become:

    • Red or discolored
    • Swollen or heavy
    • Painful

    Skin on the breast may also thicken or dimple. If you’re concerned about inflammatory breast cancer, see your doctor immediately. 

Although most cases of breast pain are minor problems, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your concerns. “If you have persistent breast pain, you should be evaluated,” says Wright. “And anyone who has a lump — painful or not — should see their doctor for an exam to make sure there isn’t a problem.”


Breast Pain: Types, Causes, and Treatments

Breast Pain: 10 Reasons Your Breasts May Hurt | Johns Hopkins Medicine

The breasts develop due to an increase in estrogen during puberty. During the menstrual cycle, various hormones cause changes in breast tissue that can lead to pain or discomfort in some women. While breasts do not typically hurt, occasional breast pain is common.

Breast pain, also called mastalgia, is a common condition among women. The pain is usually categorized as either cyclical or noncyclical.

Cyclical pain means the pain is associated with your menstrual cycle. Pain linked with the menstrual cycle tends to subside during or after your period.

Noncyclical pain can have many causes, including injury to the breast. Sometimes noncyclical pain can come from surrounding muscles or tissues rather than the breast itself. Noncyclical pain is much less common than cyclical pain, and its causes can be harder to identify.

Mastalgia can vary in intensity from a sharp pain to a mild tingling. Some women may experience breast tenderness, or their breasts may feel fuller than usual.

Breast pain can be caused by a variety of factors. Two of the most common causes are hormone fluctuations and fibrocystic (lumpy) breasts.

Hormone fluctuations

A woman’s menstrual cycle causes hormone fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones can cause a woman’s breasts to feel swollen, lumpy, and sometimes painful.

Women sometimes report that this pain gets worse as they get older due to increased sensitivity to hormones as a woman ages. Sometimes, women who experience menstrual-related pain won’t have the pain after menopause.

If breast pain is due to hormone fluctuations, you will usually notice the pain getting worse two to three days before your period. Sometimes the pain will continue throughout your menstrual cycle.

To determine whether your breast pain is linked to your menstrual cycle, keep a log of your periods and note when you experience pain throughout the month. After a cycle or two, a pattern may become clear.

Developmental periods that affect a woman’s menstrual cycle and potentially cause breast pain include:

  • puberty
  • pregnancy
  • menopause

Breast cysts

As a woman ages, her breasts experience changes known as involution. This is when breast tissue is replaced by fat. A side effect of this is the development of cysts and more fibrous tissue. These are known as fibrocystic changes or fibrocystic breast tissue.

While fibrocystic breasts don’t always cause pain, they can. These changes aren’t usually cause for concern.

Fibrocystic breasts can feel lumpy and can increase tenderness. This most usually occurs in the upper and outer portions of the breasts. The lumps can also enlarge in size around the time of your menstrual cycle.

Breastfeeding is a natural and nutritious way to feed your infant, but it isn’t without its pitfalls and difficulties. You can experience breast pain while breastfeeding for a number of reasons. These include:


Mastitis is an infection of your milk ducts. This can cause severe and strong pain as well as cracked, itching, burning, or blistering on the nipples. Other symptoms include red streaks on the breasts, fever, and chills. Your doctor will treat these with antibiotics.


Engorgement occurs when your breasts become overfull. Your breasts will appear enlarged and your skin will feel tight and painful. If you cannot feed your baby soon, you can try pumping or manually expressing your milk.

You can do this by placing your thumb on top of your breast and your fingers underneath your breast. Slowly roll your fingers back against your chest wall and forward toward your nipples to empty your breast.

Improper latch

If your baby isn’t latching on appropriately to your nipple, you will ly experience breast pain. Signs your baby may not be latching properly include cracking nipples and nipple soreness.

A lactation consultant at the hospital where you gave birth can typically help you establish a healthier latch.

Remember: Breastfeeding doesn’t have to hurt. See your doctor or call a lactation specialist if you are having difficulty breastfeeding. You can also visit La Leche League International to find a certified lactation consultant in your area.

Breast pain can have other causes, including:


The foods a woman eats may contribute to breast pain. Women who eat unhealthy diets, such as those high in fat and refined carbs, may also be at greater risk for breast pain.

Extramammary concerns

Sometimes breast pain isn’t because of your breasts, but because of irritation of the chest, arms, or back muscles. This is common if you’ve engaged in activities such as raking, rowing, shoveling, and waterskiing.

Breast size

Women with larger breasts or breasts that aren’t in proportion to their frames can experience discomfort in their necks and shoulders.

Breast surgery

If you’ve had surgery on your breasts, pain from scar tissue formation can linger after the incisions have healed.


Antidepressants, hormone therapy, antibiotics, and medications for heart disease can all contribute to breast pain. While you shouldn’t stop taking these medications if you have breast pain, talk to your doctor if alternative options are available.


Smoking is known to increase epinephrine levels in the breast tissue. This can make a woman’s breasts hurt.

Breast pain is not usually linked to breast cancer. Having breast pain or fibrocystic breasts does not mean you are at higher risk of developing cancer. However, lumpy tissue may make it harder to see tumors on a mammogram.

If you have breast pain that is localized in only one area and that is consistent through the month with no fluctuations in pain level, call your doctor. Examples of diagnostic tests can include:

  • Mammogram. Doctors use this imaging test to identify abnormalities in your breast tissue.
  • Ultrasound. An ultrasound is a scan that penetrates the breast tissue. Doctors can use it to identify lumps in breast tissue without exposing a woman to radiation.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI is used to create detailed images of breast tissue to identify potentially cancerous lesions.
  • Biopsy. A biopsy is the removal of breast tissue so a doctor can examine the tissue under a microscope for the presence of cancerous cells.

A doctor can use these tests to determine if your breast pain may be related to cancer.

Treatment will vary depending on whether your breast pain is cyclical or noncyclical. Before treating you, your doctor will consider your age, medical history, and the severity of your pain.

Treatment for cyclical pain may include:

Treatment for noncyclical pain will depend on the cause of the breast pain. Once the cause is identified, your doctor will prescribe specific related treatments.

Always talk to your doctor before starting to take any supplements to ensure they won’t interfere with the medicines you’re taking or any conditions you may have.

If your breast pain is sudden and accompanied by chest pain, tingling, and numbness in your extremities, seek immediate medical attention. These symptoms can indicate a heart attack.

Make an appointment to see your doctor if your pain:

  • keeps you from daily activities
  • lasts longer than two weeks
  • accompanies a new lump that appears to be getting thicker
  • seems to be concentrated in one specific area of your breast
  • seems to get worse with time

At your appointment, you can expect your doctor to ask you about your symptoms. Questions could include:

  • When did your breast pain begin?
  • What makes your breast pain worse? Does anything seem to make it better?
  • Do you notice the pain getting worse around the time of your menstrual cycle?
  • How would you rate the pain? What does the pain feel ?

Your doctor will ly perform a physical exam. They may also recommend imaging tests, a mammogram, to visualize your breast tissue. This could allow them to identify cysts in your breast tissue.

If you have cystic breasts, your doctor might do a needle biopsy. This is a procedure where a thin needle is inserted into the cyst to remove a small sample of tissue for testing.