Breast pain

Many women have breast pain (called mastalgia) at some time in their lives.

Cyclical breast pain is often felt around the time of a woman’s menstrual period. It goes away after her period ends. This type of pain usually occurs in both breasts. It is more common in younger women and often stops after menopause.

Non-cyclical breast pain does not appear to be related to the menstrual cycle. This type of breast pain is more common in women between 30 and 50 years of age. It can occur in just one breast.

Pain may be felt in part or all of a breast. It may also be felt in the upper arm or armpit. Breast pain may be described as:

  • sharp, stabbing or shooting pain
  • aching or burning
  • heaviness or swelling of the breast

Breast pain is rarely a sign of breast cancer. It is usually a sign of a non-cancerous (benign) breast condition such as:

  • breast cysts
  • fibrocystic breasts
  • fat necrosis
  • mammary duct ectasia
  • breast infection (called mastitis)
  • an area of pus and inflammation (called abscess) in the breast

Talk to your doctor if you have a new pain, a change in the pain or pain that doesn’t go away. They will try to find the cause of the pain to decide on the best treatments for it.

Expert review and references

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

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