Causes of breast pain

Causes of breast pain include:

Click on these links for more information about these causes.

Period-related breast pain (cyclical breast pain)

Breast pain is commonly caused bychanges in hormone levels that occur during the menstrual cycle . This is known as cyclical breast pain.

Hormone changes may be the cause of your pain if:

  • you still have periods (you haven't yet reached the menopause ) or are having hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • the painstarts around the same time every month(usually one to three days before the start of your period ) and improvesat the end of your period
  • both breasts are affected (although occasionallyonly one may be)

Wearing a supportive bra during the day, at night and while exercising can help reduce the pain, as can over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen ,and gels that you rub into your skin such as ibuprofen or diclofenac.

See your GP if the pain is difficult to control.They may refer you to a specialist who can prescribemedication to control your hormone levels, such as danazol, tamoxifen or goserelin.


Sore, tenderbreastsare sometimes an early sign of pregnancy.

This may be the cause of your pain if you also have other signs of pregnancy , such as:

  • missing your last period
  • feeling sick andtired
  • needing to pee more often than usual
  • strange tastes, smells and cravings

You can do a home pregnancy test if you think there's a chance youmight be pregnant.

Breast lumps

There are manytypes of breast lump , some of which may be painful

These include:

  • a fibroadenoma a smooth, firm lump that can move around the breast; these are particularly common in young women
  • a breast cysta fluid-filled sac that develops in the breast tissue; these are most common in women over 35
  • mastitis and breast abscesses

Most breast lumps are harmless, but they should be checked by a GP just in casethey're a sign of something serious, such ascancer.

Treatment depends onthe type of lump you have. Some lumps may not need any treatment. It can be caused bya bacterial infection or breastfeeding .

In addition to breast pain, mastitis cancause:

  • a red, swollen area on your breast that may feel hot to touch
  • breast tenderness
  • a lump or area of hardness on your breast
  • nipple discharge
  • flu-like symptoms , such as aches, a high temperature (fever) and chills

See your GP if you think you might have mastitis, as it could lead to an abscess if not treated. Your GP may prescribe antibiotics to treatany infection. Read moreabout how mastitis is treated .

An abscess

A breast abscess is a collection of pus in the breast. It's usually caused by a bacterial infection such as mastitis .

Breast abscesses are painful, swollen lumps that may also:

  • be red and feel hot
  • cause the surrounding skin to swell
  • cause a fever

See your GP if you think you have a breast abscess. You may need antibiotics to treat the infection and a minor procedure to drain the pus with a needle. Sometimes pain can spread along the nerves in your chest so that it feels like it's in your breast.

For example, breast pain can be caused by:

  • a pulled muscle in yourchest
  • a neck, shoulderorback injury
  • costochondritis inflammation of theareawhere your ribs join to your breastbone
  • previous breast surgery

An injurymay be the cause of your pain if it's only felt inonespot and it gets worse when you move around.

Wearing a supportive bra and taking painkillers can help relieve the pain while the injury heals. Occasionally, injections of steroid medication and local anaesthetic may be needed if the pain persists.

Breastfeeding problems

If you're breastfeeding, your pain may be the result of:

  • breast engorgement where your breasts become overly full
  • a blocked milk duct
  • mastitis pain and swelling caused by blocked milk duct, which may become infected with bacteria
  • a breast abscess a painful build-up of pus that can occur if mastitis isn't treated
  • thrush a fungal infection that can occur ifyour nipples are cracked or damaged

Speak to your midwife or health visitor if you think your pain could be related to breastfeeding. They can check your feeding technique andrecommend ways to reduce the pain.

They will examine your breasts andmay refer you for further tests. Most women who have these tests don't have cancer.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018