What is Breast Pain: Types, Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Pain in the breast is not an uncommon phenomenon, as any woman who has been pregnant will vouch for it. But the pain in the breast can also signify something more sinister. Breast pain that occurs alongside other symptoms, such as a lump, discharge, or nipple redness, should not be taken lightly. The American Cancer Society informs us that one out of every eight women will develop invasive cancer at some point in her lifetime.

Among all types of cancers, the most commonly diagnosed among women is Breast Cancer; specifically, this refers to carcinoma that begins from the cells of the mammary gland and invades adjacent tissue. Most of these cancers are found and treated before they have spread to other body parts – known as Stage 1.

What Causes Breast Pain?

  • A breast cyst, which is a lump filled with fluids, can cause painful breasts.
  • Connective tissue diseases like fibrocystic breast changes cause pain, tenderness and lumpiness in the breasts.
  • An infection in the breast, like mastitis, can cause pain and swelling. 
  • Breastfeeding can cause pain and irritation in the breast, especially when the baby is sucking strongly. 
  • A breast injury may cause pain in the breast.
  • A breast or nipple skin condition, like an infection or dermatitis, may cause pain and redness in the breast. 
  • Breast cancer can cause a dull, aching pain in the breast that may come and go.

What are the Common Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer?

  • Depending on the stage of cancer, various symptoms and signs may be present. 
  • Breast pain, swelling or tenderness are common symptoms. 
  • Nipple discharge at any time of the year is a sign of infection, but this discharge is usually bloody during breast cancer. 
  • Lumps in the breast are also common. These may be felt while bathing or pressing the breast's skin. 
  • Loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, general malaise, fever, and night sweats are more serious signs of breast cancer. 
  • Skin changes at the site of breast cancer may also occur. 
  • Changes in the breast, such as dimpling, puckering, swelling or thickening of the skin, or a change in shape, are also signs.

Treatment for Breast Pain

  • If the pain is caused by a breast cyst or a benign growth, it will go away on its own after a few weeks. 
  • If a breast infection causes pain, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics.
  • If a breast injury causes the pain, the doctor will prescribe rest, ice packs and a compression bandage. 
  • If the pain is caused by breast cancer, the doctor will perform a mammogram and a breast biopsy. 
  • If a breast cyst causes the pain, a doctor may recommend that the cyst be removed surgically.

Self-Care Measures for Treating Breast Pain

  • Use a cold compress on the breast to reduce pain and swelling. 
  • Breast massage can be very helpful in reducing breast pain. 
  • Using a warm, moist compress can soothe the pain and reduce swelling. 
  • Breast self-exams can help you detect any unusual lumps or changes in the breast. 
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and fish that can help reduce breast pain. 
  • Avoid salt and sugar, which can increase swelling and pain. 
  • Practice stress reduction techniques like yoga, meditation or deep breathing.

Conclusion: Understanding Breast Pain

Breast pain is often a sign of a benign condition, but it can also be a sign of a more serious problem. While some types of breast pain are harmless, others can indicate an underlying condition or disease. While most causes of breast pain aren't serious, it's important to rule out any serious causes to get the right treatment.

If you experience breast pain, you shouldn't ignore it. Breast pain can be a sign of something more serious, especially if it's accompanied by a lump in your breast, thickening of the skin in your breast, discharge from your nipple, or changes in the skin of your breast.

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