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Breast Pain (Mastalgia)


Breast pain is very common, and most women will experience it at some time in their life.

Breast pain is any discomfort, tenderness, or pain in the breast or underarm region, and it may occur for several reasons. The medical name for breast soreness is mastalgia.

Generally, breast pain is not a sign of breast cancer.

Cyclical mastalgia

Cyclical mastalgia, the most common type of breast pain, is pain associated with the menstrual cycle.​​

Women often experience a dull, burning, or aching pain, although they can also have sharp & shooting pains which spread from the breast to the armpit.

Cyclical breast pain may affect one breast more than the other.

It usually starts ≥5 days before a menstrual cycle and eases when the period starts.

Non-cyclical mastalgia

Affects around a third of women with breast pain. Timing of this pain is not associated with the menstrual cycle.

Possible causes of non-cyclical breast pain include:

  • Large, pendulous breasts

  • Diet, lifestyle

  • HRT

  • Mastitis

  • Pregnancy,

  • Trauma

  • Cysts

Chest wall pain

This is pain that seems to be coming from the breast but is actually due to problems in the underlying structures.


  • Shoulder (e.g. scapula bursitis)

  • Neck or back pain

  • Lung disease

  • Heart problems

  • Reflux

  • Costochondritis (inflammation of the rib joints)

Breast Pain & Cancer

For many women, the biggest concern about breast soreness is that it is a sign of cancer; however, breast soreness is not often associated with cancer, and it does not put you at any increased risk of breast cancer.

If you experience a change in your symptoms that is not normal for you, you should seek medical advice.


Diagnosing breast pain

To try to find a cause for breast soreness, your doctor will have considered:

  • whether there is any obvious cause for the pain (for example, a scar or an injury)

  • the history of the pain

  • where, when, and how you feel the pain

  • the results of a physical examination and any ultrasounds,

  • mammograms or other tests that were needed

  • whether you are still having periods or taking HRT.

Sometimes, even with all this information, it will still not be possible to tell you what is causing your pain.

This doesn’t mean that the pain is not real.

Managing Breast Pain


Pain relief

  • Anti-inflammatory gels

  • Compresses (warm or cold)



  • Wear a supportive, well-fitting bra.

  • Reduce caffeine intake (coffee, tea, chocolate & cola drinks).

  • Reduce dietary fat.

  • Stop or reduce smoking.

  • Evening Primrose Oil.

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