Breast pain is very common. A survey of women found that almost half had mild breast pain, and about 1 in 5 had severe breast pain, although most had not reported these symptoms to their doctor. Breast pain is the most common breast-related symptom for which patients seek medical treatment, and accounts for about half of breast-related office visits. Fortunately, breast pain is rarely due to cancer.
Most commonly, breast pain is cyclical, meaning that it is related to the normal hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle. Usually it is felt the week before the start of menses, and resolves after the end of menses. Hormonal breast pain tends to be in both breasts, and most severe in the upper and outer aspects of the breast. Minor cyclical breast discomfort is very normal. However, in a small number of women, this cyclical pain can be moderate to severe, affecting day-to-day activities.
Noncyclical breast pain does not follow the usual menstrual pattern. It tends to be on one side and in different locations of the breast. There are many causes of noncyclical/non-hormonal breast pain:
The doctor will do a breast exam to make sure there are no suspicious lumps. A mammogram or ultrasound may also be needed. Whether imaging is done will depend on the type of pain, the exam findings, the woman’s age, and when the last breast imaging was done.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/29/2014.