Dr Ayman Mahfouz

Breast Pain Possible Causes

September 14, 2021, 14:09 Breast

Why Do My Breasts Hurt?

Breast pain is a common condition that is usually nothing to worry about.

However, it’s important to know the difference between harmless breast pain and pain that may indicate a more serious underlying condition so you can quickly access the care you need.

Types of Breast Pain

There are two main types of breast pain: cyclical and non-cyclical.

  • Cyclical pain is linked to your hormones or reproductive cycle.

  • Non-cyclical pain is unrelated to your reproductive cycle.

The symptoms you experience may vary depending on which type of pain you have.

Cyclical Breast Pain Symptoms

Cyclical symptoms include:

  • An achy or heavy sensation – normally, both breasts are affected

  • Breasts that feel lumpy

  • Pain that can spread to the armpits

The pain typically starts up to two weeks before your period and stops when your period ends.

Cyclical breast pain is most common in women in their 20s and 30s and those approaching menopause.

Non-Cyclical Breast Pain Symptoms

The symptoms of non-cyclical breast pain include:

  • Constant or unpredictable discomfort

  • Pain isolated to one breast, or one section of your breast

  • Fever and/or a hot breast

  • Nipple discharge

  • Hard lump

There are many causes of non-cyclical breast pain, including:

  • Cysts

  • Infection

  • Muscle sprain

  • Some type of medication

  • Breast cancer (less common)

You’re more likely to develop pain if you have large or heavy breasts, take certain hormones pills, have a history of breast surgery, or have a family history of breast cancer or cysts.

When to Talk to Your Doctor About Breast Pain

Although you can often manage the pain at home, you should contact your doctor if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • The pain interferes with sleep or daily activities.

  • Your breast pain worsens over time.

  • The pain lasts more than a week or two.

  • Painkillers don’t relieve the pain.

Ask for an urgent appointment if you have:

  • A fever

  • Any hard lump in your breast that doesn’t move

  • Breast shape changes or skin thickening

  • Redness, heat or swelling around any part of your breast

  • Dimpling around the skin (patches of your skin may resemble an orange peel)

  • Nipple discharge

  • A sunken nipple or shape changes

  • A history of breast cancer in the family

If you don’t have these symptoms but you’re still worried about your breast pain, speak to your doctor or contact our Breast Specialists to arrange a breast ultrasound for your peace of mind.

Diagnosing Breast Pain

To investigate what’s causing your breast pain, you will undergo a physical examination.

The exam involves checking your breasts and the lymph nodes in your neck and armpits to identify any signs of changes.

Depending on what your doctor identifies during the physical exam, you may need one or more of the following diagnostic tests.


A mammogram is an x-ray of your breast that identifies possible problems within the breast, such as cancerous tumours or benign cysts.

Mammograms are preferable for women over 40.

Breast Ultrasound

A breast ultrasound uses sound waves to capture images of your breast tissue. Like mammograms, ultrasounds are helpful for diagnosing breast conditions such as cysts and tumours.

If you’re under 40, in most cases, a breast ultrasound is just as effective as a mammogram for identifying breast problems.


During a biopsy, the doctor removes a small section of breast tissue that can be analysed for signs of cancer or other abnormal cells.

How Breast Ultrasounds Are Performed

If you need a breast ultrasound, you’re probably wondering what to expect.

Essentially, a breast ultrasound is a painless and non-invasive way to examine your breast tissue in more detail.

The imaging specialist places some gel on your breast and moves a probe over your skin that projects images onto a computer screen.

Based on the images, the specialist can detect signs of breast abnormalities that may require further investigation.

You don’t need to prepare for a breast ultrasound, and you can go home once the scan is complete.

Ultrasounds are a safe and comfortable way to put your mind at ease regarding any pain or discomfort in the breast region, especially if you’re under 40, so book an appointment online if you have any concerns.

Treating Breast Pain

Treatment options for the pain in your breast depend on the underlying cause but include:

  • Using a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) gel on the affected area

  • Prescription medication

  • Switching birth control pills

If there’s a cyst or tumour causing your pain, then your doctor will advise you what treatment options are available.

Managing Breast Pain at Home

Breast pain is normally self-limiting, meaning that it goes away on its own. In the meantime, here are some tips for managing the pain at home.

  • Take a painkiller like paracetamol or ibuprofen.

  • Wear a supportive bra, and consider wearing a soft bra to bed until your symptoms pass.

  • Apply an ice or heat pack to the sore breast.

  • Try not to slump or slouch.

Preventing Breast Pain

Although not all breast pain is preventable, you can help reduce your risk of developing breast pain by:

  • Wearing a well-fitting bra

  • Avoiding hormonal medications, if possible

  • Limiting your caffeine intake

  • Following a low-fat diet

  • Always wearing a sports bra during exercise

A Breast Specialist can give you more specific advice about preventing breast pain depending on your individual circumstances.

Breast Ultrasound Screening at Harley Street Ultrasound Group

At the Harley Street Ultrasound Group, we offer a full range of breast imaging services, consultations and even full breast assessments to help identify the source of your breast pain.

Our Breast Specialists will perform a full medical history and, depending on the findings, provide you with ultrasound or mammogram to identify any possible abnormalities such as breast cancer.

We also offer further diagnostic services such as aspiration and breast tissue biopsies to help reach a definitive diagnosis.

If you have any concerns about your breast health, or even if you’re simply looking for reassurance, don’t hesitate to contact our clinic today and book your appointment online. Or, to find out more about our packages including our breast ultrasound and breast consultation services, click here.

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