Breast pain and cancer may not necessarily go together, but this is the type of symptom that should be followed up by a visit to a doctor. In its early stages, breast cancer may not cause any discomfort at all. A woman should be conducting breast self-exams monthly to check for a lump that has a marble-like quality. A smooth, hard lump, whether it causes pain or not, should be examined by a doctor to determine whether further investigation is warranted.
Pain in the breast may be caused by a number of factors that don't indicate a serious health threat. A lump or bulge in the breast area can be caused by a benign cyst. Women who are breast feeding may experience pain or swelling in the area near the nipple due to mastitis, a condition where the milk ducts in the breast become infected. Engorgement when attempting to start breast feeding a newborn or during the weaning process may also cause discomfort, which is not due to a breast pain and cancer connection.
Another cause of discomfort, which does not relate to breast pain and cancer, is the hormonal changes that are a normal part of a woman's menstrual cycle. It's not uncommon for a woman to experience soreness as she gets close to the start of her period. If the breast pain or tenderness is a new symptom, the woman should visit her doctor to rule out a more serious underlying cause. A woman in the early stages of pregnancy may experience breast tenderness and tingling due to hormonal changes necessary to provide a safe environment for the developing fetus.
Other causes of breast pain include a poor-fitting bra and weight gain. Losing weight or getting measured for the right size bra can help to alleviate the discomfort in these situations. Certain types of medication can cause breast pain, and a doctor or pharmacist can advise whether this is likely to be the case after reviewing the prescriptions and other drugs the patient is taking. If the patient is still concerned about breast pain and cancer, the doctor can counsel her about this disease or offer treatment options for the underlying cause of the pain.
In some instances, breast pain and cancer are related. If other symptoms are present along with the pain, such as a lump or discharge coming from the nipple, it may indicate a serious health concern. Pain caused by breast cancer may be confined to one area of the breast and it may persist over time without resolving. Seeing a doctor will either put the patient's mind at ease or provide her a referral to a specialist who can provide further advice and treatment.