Breast sensitivity isn’t unusual, nor is breast pain. Research has found that over half of women experience breast pain at times. The question is: Is this something to worry about? Could your breast pain be a sign of breast cancer, for instance?
In this month’s blog, let’s get into why your breasts may be painful, and if you should see your doctor about it. Here are the typical reasons for breast sensitivity or pain.
Breastfeeding causes the breasts to change, often becoming more sensitive. Sometimes just one breast becomes more sensitive. Here are some possible reasons why:
- Blocked milk duct— If a milk duct is not draining properly it may develop a small lump, become painful, feel tight, and create a burning sensation. You can get a blocked duct to clear by continuing to breastfeed or pump. Massage the breast before and during to encourage milk flow. Try changing breastfeeding positions.
- Mastitis— This is a breast infection caused by a blocked milk duct. The breast can become painful, red, and swollen.
- Milk bleb— This is a white dot on the nipple or areola that may become sensitive to the touch. These usually develop as a result of a blocked duct or mastitis.
- Filling and releasing— Some women experience pain or sensitivity when their breasts fill with milk. During the release of milk, there can be tingling or electrical sensations in the breast.
Since the breasts sit above the pectoral muscle, pain felt in these muscles can feel as if it is in your breasts. These injuries usually are strains or overuse of the muscles.
Cyclic breast pain
Some women have pain or sensitivity that changes with their menstrual cycles. Changing hormone levels causes this cyclic pain. The breasts can feel swollen, sensitive, or painful in the days leading up to your period.
As with cyclic pain relating to menstrual cycles, pregnancy also causes the breasts to become more sensitive. This usually happens in both breasts.
Developing benign lumps in the breasts is not unusual, and they can create pain. These lumps can make the breasts feel full, sore, or overly sensitive. This sensitivity can be constant or varying.
The most common types of benign lumps include fibroadenomas and cysts. Fibroadenomas are thick, fibrous growths that may feel rubbery or hard to the touch. Breast cysts are round or oval sacs of fluid that may feel tender or overly sensitive. They may become larger and more painful just before the menstrual cycle.
Benign lumps don’t require treatment unless they’re causing pain. Some women find that reducing caffeine can decrease the sensitivity. Any new lumps should always be checked out by your doctor.
Sensitivity in one breast can be a warning sign of breast cancer. The pain itself is unlikely to be due to cancer, but is an associated effect.
A new lump or mass in the breast is the most common symptom of breast cancer. These are other symptoms that could all be causing pain and also indicate breast cancer:
- Changes in the size or shape of one breast
- Skin changes in one breast
- New or unusual discharge from the breasts
- Swelling in the breast
- The nipple turning inward
When should you see a doctor?
If you have the symptoms listed above, you need to see a doctor immediately, as early treatment of breast cancer has very high success rates.
Otherwise, if you have pain or sensitivity, it’s safe to wait a few days to see if it passes. If you have intense pain, redness, swelling, or fever, these could be signs of an infection and would merit a call to your doctor.
These would be other reasons to see your doctor about your breast pain:
- It gets worse or changes from sensitivity to pain
- It comes and goes with no apparent cause
- There is also swelling, redness, a lump, or nipple discharge
- It occurs in conjunction with a change in milk supply
- A recent injury to the breast or chest muscle doesn’t improve