Experiencing breast pain can be a source of worry for any woman. But before you panic, take heart: breast pain in of itself is rarely a sign of breast cancer. Breast pain is also very common. About 70% of us will feel discomfort in our breasts at some point in our lives.

Although any breast changes can invoke fear, your breast pain is most likely caused by nothing serious. Potential causes of breast discomfort include:

  • cysts
  • hormonal changes related to the menstrual cycle.
  • an ill-fitting bra
  • imbalance in fatty acids
  • infection in the breast ducts (mastitis)
  • medications
  • the size of your breasts
  • trauma or injury
  • weight gain

Although there may be nothing wrong, if this is the first time you have experienced discomfort, you should probably make an appointment to see your doctor.

Breast discomfort can be described in many ways:

  • burning
  • jabbing, sharp pain
  • soreness
  • tightness
  • intermittent or steady
  • local or diffuse

Use these terms to describe the pain to your doctor as it will help determine the cause of the discomfort. Your doctor will also want to know how long you've had the discomfort and how severe the pain is, and will examine your breast and the areas nearby to determine potential causes.

Treatment will depend on what the cause is. For example, if the discomfort follows your menstrual cycle, your doctor might prescribe an oral contraceptive pill. Or the treatment might be as simple as getting properly fitted for a bra.

Ruth Ackerman