The easiest way to tell whether breast pain is something to worry about or not is to determine whether it is cyclic or noncyclic
Breast pain (mastalgia) is common and most often caused by hormonal fluctuations. In rare cases, however, breast pain can indicate serious problems such as an infection or breast cancer.
Breast pain may be described as tenderness, throbbing, stabbing, or burning. Common causes include menstruation, pregnancy, lactation, and menopause. However, cysts or tumors can also cause pain by compressing the surrounding nerves in the breast tissue.
The easiest way to tell whether breast pain is something to worry about or not is to determine whether it is cyclic or noncyclic.
What is the difference between cyclic and noncyclic breast pain?
Cyclic breast pain
Cyclic breast pain occurs every month around the same time and usually affects both breasts. The pain is diffuse and associated with mild tenderness, which typically fades without medical intervention as hormonal changes subside.
Noncyclic breast pain
Noncyclic breast pain is persistent pain that usually affects only one breast and is confined to a particular area. Instead of coming and going, the pain is present all the time. Depending on the underlying cause, the pain may be sharp, burning, throbbing, stabbing, etc.
When to see a doctor for breast pain
Seek medical attention if you notice the following symptoms:
- Pain that interferes normal day-to-day activities and/or affects sleep
- Pain lasts more than 2 weeks or that is noncyclic
- Bloody or abnormal discharge from the nipples
- Inverted nipple
- Change in the appearance of skin over the breast (orange-peel appearance)
- Hard lump that can be felt on palpation
- Lump that increases in size over time
- Fever, chest pain, breathing difficulty, or numbness
As the incidence of breast cancer has increased over the years, doctors advise women in the reproductive age group (20-50) to undergo annual check-ups. Moreover, it is recommended to see a doctor if your breast pain is new and/or different in nature than pain you have experienced in the past.
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Medically Reviewed on 12/7/2021