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Breast pain

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Breast pain is common, and there can be many causes, but most cases are not a cause for concern. Cyclical breast pain can be a normal part of many women's menstrual cycles, especially in the weeks before a period starts.

Other causes of breast pain are the contraceptive pill, pregnancy, menopause, an infection in the breast such as mastitis, a muscle strain in the chest wall, and injury to the area. Pain is not a common presentation of breast cancer; other signs that are more indicative of breast cancer include changes in your breast shape, nipple or skin changes, or a breast lump that doesn't go away with your next period.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

You can treat breast pain with over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Your pharmacist can help you with this if you are unsure what is right for you.

When should I see my doctor?

You should book a routine doctor’s appointment if the pain is not improving with pain relief, if it continues to be painful for more than two weeks without improvement, or if the pain gets worse. If you have a red or swollen breast, a fever, a discharge, or you have any skin or nipple changes, book an urgent appointment with your doctor. You should always book an appointment to see your doctor if you find a new persistent lump in your breast.

What will my doctor do?

The doctor will ask you about your symptoms, what your menstrual cycle is like, your medical history, any relevant family medical history, and what medications you are currently taking. If you are comfortable, they will examine your breasts. If your pain has been linked to starting a contraceptive medicine, the doctor may discuss other options for changing to an alternative contraceptive. If further tests are needed, the doctor may refer you to a breast clinic.

Related topics

Read about: Breast lump

Read about: Breast cancer screening

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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