Breast pain is very 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 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 such as changes in your breast shape, nipple or skin changes, or a breast lump that doesn't go away with your next period.
You can treat breast pain with over-the-counter pain medication such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Your pharmacist can help you with this if you are unsure what is right for you.
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, discharge, or you have any skin or nipple changes, book an urgent appointment with your doctor. You should always book to see your doctor if you find a new persistent lump in your breast.
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 medication, the doctor may discuss with you options for changing to an alternative contraceptive. If further tests are needed the doctor may refer you to a hospital breast clinic.