Should I be concerned if my breasts hurt?

Dolores Pecho

Cyclical and non-cyclical breast pain

Women’s most common breast pains are related to the menstrual cycle. Their intensity varies depending on the person, but they are nevertheless characterised by their recurrent monthly cycle. Typically, both breasts feel achy, tender, and swollen, and the pain may spread around the chest area and up the armpit. Women between the ages of 20 and menopause tend to suffer cyclical breast pains more intensely.

Non-cyclical breast pain is not linked to the menstrual cycle. It may occur in both breasts or in one, and be centred in one specific location or over a generalised area. The pain can also vary in intensity or be constant.

When should I see a doctor?

Breast pain is not usually serious. Nevertheless, it may sometimes be advisable to see a doctor when:

  • The nipple bleeds or secretes clear fluid and the area is reddened.
  • Lumps appear in the breast or adjacent area, and these change in size over a few days or weeks.
  • The discomfort or pain is constant and lasts over 2 weeks.

What causes breast pain?

The 6 most frequent causes of breast pain are:

  1. The menstrual cycle is the #1 cause of breast pain in women.
  2. Some medications, such as contraceptives or antidepressants, may cause breast pain as a side effect.
  3. The overall breast size may be a determining factor in pain suffered in that area.
  4. Cellular changes from fatty acids may cause breast pain.
  5. Breast surgery may cause post-operation pain, either in the scarring or due to complications with implants.
  6. There are various ways breast tissue may undergo structural changes that cause pain, including fibroadenoma, intraductal papilloma, cysts, or blocked milk ducts.
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