Sore Breast or Breast pain, also known as mastalgia or mastodynia, can be caused by a variety of factors. Do you feel that your breast discomfort is the root of your anxiety? Contrary to popular belief, breast pain does not always indicate breast cancer, although it is important to seek medical attention if you feel lumps in your breast that persist, along with breast pain.
According to a 2020 analysis, an estimated 70% of women will experience breast discomfort at some point in their lives.(1) Breast pain is also one of the most frequent complaints among people aged 15–40 years.
While sore breast is not a typical sign of breast cancer, women should seek medical attention if they experience pain and other breast changes such as lumps or discharge.
Sore Breasts? Here Are 5 Possible Culprits
Here’s more information on some of the possible causes of breast discomfort and some tips on how to manage it:
Hormone Level Fluctuations
Sore Breast and swelling are frequently caused by hormonal fluctuations that occur in the days leading up to menstruation. This type of breast pain is often felt in both breasts and may extend to the armpit.
Cyclic breast pain is the term used to describe breast discomfort that occurs in conjunction with a woman’s menstrual cycle. This could be a symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), a collection of symptoms that occur in the days leading up to menstruation, or it could occur on its own.
Other symptoms of PMS include mood swings, acne, headaches, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping. PMS is a transient condition that typically goes away a few days after the onset of menstruation. In the meantime, over-the-counter pain medications, comfortable and supportive bras, and moderate heat applied to the painful areas can help manage the symptoms.
Breast pain may also be caused by other hormonal fluctuations, such as those that occur during pregnancy or at the beginning of menopause.
Wearing a bra that is too tight or has an underwire that digs into the skin or breast tissue can cause sore breast. If you have cyclic breast pain, you may find that your usual bras feel too small or cause discomfort during certain phases of your menstrual cycle. This is a common symptom of cyclic breast pain.
Many department stores offer free bra fittings to help you find the right size. Women who experience pain in the days leading up to their period should choose supportive, wire-free, and comfortable bras. Exercise can also be helpful for those who wear supportive bras.
Breast Changes Caused by Fibrocystic Disease
Breast changes caused by fibrocystic breast disease are not dangerous but may be painful. These changes are caused by hormonal fluctuations and may manifest as a lumpy or otherwise different breast texture. Fibrocystic breast disease is the most common non-malignant breast condition, according to a trusted source.
Symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease may include breast tenderness or soreness, even if they appear denser or thicker than usual, fibrous growths or cysts, and itchy or tender nipples.
The symptoms may worsen in the days leading up to menstruation but should go away completely after menopause. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), cool or warm compresses applied to painful areas, a low-salt, low-caffeine, and low-fat diet, and starting or stopping birth control pills may all be part of fibrocystic breast management.
If you believe your fibrocystic breast changes are caused by your new birth control method, it is critical to see a doctor before making any changes to your medication. All women between the ages of 50 and 74, according to the United States Preventive Services Task Force, should get a mammogram every 2 years.(2)
The inflammation or swelling that occurs in the breasts is referred to as mastitis. Infection is the typical root cause of the problem. Although women who are nursing are the most likely to be affected by the disorder, it may also occur in those who are not breastfeeding. The following are some of the symptoms of mastitis:
- Enlargement, discomfort, and warmth in one or both breasts
Antibiotics are the medication that is used to treat infections. Breastfeeding requires a person to empty their breasts of milk, which may be uncomfortable at times. If there is an abscess present, the pus will either be removed surgically or with a needle in order for the doctor to drain the abscess.
Cancer of the breast develops when cells in the breast mutate and then start multiplying in an uncontrolled manner. Breast cancer is not often the cause of breast pain, although it should be considered a possibility. Other symptoms may include the following, according to a reliable source:
- Dimpling or irritation of breast skin pulling in at the nipple or discomfort in the nipple
- Flaky, inflamed skin in the nipple region
- Thickness or swelling of portion of the breast
- Change in the shape or size of the breast
There is a subtype of breast cancer known as inflammatory breast cancer, which manifests itself in a variety of ways in patients. These are the following:
- A breast that is painful, tender, or itchy;
- A pink, red, or purple discoloration that covers at least one-third of the breast;
- Pitting of the skin, similar to that of orange peel;
- Swelling of the skin, making one breast look larger than the other;
- A retracted or inverted nipple;
Surgical removal of the tumor, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation therapy, and biologic therapy are some of the therapeutic options available for breast cancer. People often undergo more than one of these therapies at the same time.
There are several different conditions that might result in breast discomfort or soreness, often known as mastalgia. This symptom may or may not occur on a cyclical basis. If the pain comes and goes in cycles, it is likely caused by the shifting levels of hormones that occur throughout the menstrual cycle.
Pain that is not cyclical in nature may be brought on by premenstrual syndrome (PMS), fibrocystic breast changes, traumas and sprains, or inflammation around the ribs. Sometimes the cause of this ailment is determined to be a cyst or an infection.
Even though breast cancer is not often the cause of breast discomfort, anybody who has this symptom need to see a physician in order to rule out the possibility that they have this ailment.
Additional references for the article on “Breast Pain and Its Causes”:
- Aydin, Y., Gultekin, M. A., & Guler, S. A. (2020). The prevalence and associated factors of mastalgia among women living in Denizli. Breast cancer (Tokyo, Japan), 27(5), 769-777. doi: 10.1007/s12282-020-01097-8
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (2016). Final Recommendation Statement: Breast Cancer: Screening. Retrieved from https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/RecommendationStatementFinal/breast-cancer-screening1
- American Cancer Society. (2021). Breast Cancer Signs and Symptoms. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/understanding-a-breast-cancer-diagnosis/signs-and-symptoms-of-breast-cancer.html