Breast Pain

Breast pain is quite a common condition experienced typically by women, but it may be also a male problem. Usually it is a consequence of female sex hormone changes, but less frequently it can be a symptom of much more serious disease.


Menstrual cycle

Some women complain of occasional breasts tension and pain that appears periodically in certain phases of their menstrual cycle, usually in premenstrual periods. It is because of effects of female sex hormones on breast tissue. After the onset of menopause such sensations gradually disappear.


Pregnancy is a period of great hormone level changes; breast tissue proliferates and prepares for milk production. This process can again be accompanied by feelings of tension and pain. These troubles subside during lactation.

Hormonal contraception

Hormonal contraception substances consist typically of female sex hormones. Such regularly administered hormones have many side effects including unpleasant sensations in breasts. Change of preparation to other type often helps. Breast pain also typically occurs when a “morning-after pill” is administered. These abortion pills contain relatively large amount of hormones that can temporarily disturb woman's organism.

Inflammation of breast (mastitis)

Inflammation of breast tissue usually occurs during breastfeeding, but it can be present also by non-breastfeeding women. The disease is caused by bacteria that penetrate breast tissue via milk glands. Affected breast turns red; it can be enlarged and painful. Fever may sometimes be present. It is advisable, especially for non-breastfeeding women, to visit a gynecologist because some forms of breast cancer (see below). Therapy is mainly antibiotic.

Breast cancer

Most forms of breast cancer do not hurt. However, there is a rare inflammatory form of breast cancer that mimics local mastitis symptoms.


This condition means breast enlargement by a male patient. It is usually caused by certain medication (typically diuretic agent called spironolactone). Gynecomastia is often connected with feeling of breast tension or even pain. Any troubles with breast by male should not be underestimated as there is also a possibility of breast cancer occurrence.

Diagnostic approach

Woman experiencing any chronic difficulties with breasts should be examined by a gynecologist. Medical history is important (character of complaints, use of hormonal contraception, pregnancy, lactation) as well as physical breast examination (view, palpation). If necessary, the gynecologist may indicate some imaging methods like breast ultrasound or mammography.

Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources