Pain in breasts can be very frightening and distressing for females. It can occur as a feeling of constant tightening or discomfort in the breasts or as a sharp pain that comes and goes. Whether the pain is constant or periodic, it causes concerns in the female. Although pain in breast is a common problem, the causes are variable – some are minor while others are really serious.

What Causes Sharp Pain in Breast That Comes and Goes?

Pain in breast often makes a female to assume that it was breast cancer. However, breast pain is rarely the first symptom of breast cancer.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes can often cause unpleasant breast pain that let you rashly connect it with breast cancer. In fact, these changes are less dangerous in comparison with breast cancer. Hormonal changes that can cause breast pain can occur during the following periods of a female’s life:

  • Menopause

  • Premenstrual syndrome and menstruation

  • Puberty

  • Pregnancy, especially during the first trimester

  • Post childbirth, blocked and inflamed milk ducts can lead to mastitis, which is a painful condition


Fibrocystic Breasts

This is another cause of breast pain. Fibrocystic breast is usually characterized by lumpy breast tissue and the lumps are fluid filled cysts instead of cells. Fibrocystic breasts can be very painful especially before periods.


Some Medicines

Using certain medicines may also result in pain in breasts. These include digitalis preparations, certain diuretics, anadrol, methyldopa, spironolactone, and chlorpromazine.


Adverse Effects of Mammogram or Surgery

Breast pain may also result from surgery or screening with the mammogram. After surgery, the scars and damaged tissues may be highly sensitive and painful. During mammogram, physical pressure is put on the breasts, which may lead to pain.


Uncomfortable Bras

Pain in breast can also result from poor choice of bras. Padded bras, underwire bras and too tight bras can result in pain and discomfort. Be sure to make a good choice of bra, which is of proper size for your breasts.



Breasts contain nerves, connective tissues and blood vessels, along with ducts and lobes for secreting milk. An injury to the breast may cause severe pain and formation of a bruise. And since there is no protection provided by bones or major muscles to breasts, they are very likely to be injured.


Mastitis or Ductal Ectasia

Another cause of sharp pain in breast that comes and goes could be mastitis or ductal ectasia, which may result from an abscess or infected and clogged milk ducts.

When Is Breast Pain Correlated With Breast Cancer?

Though pain, tenderness and lumps in breasts are usually caused by some other minor illness; still, sometimes they may indicate something more serious, like breast cancer.

Never ignore the below mentioned signs that indicate the presence of breast cancer:

  • Changes in the nipple including discharge or retraction

  • Breast changes including orange peel texture, enlargement of one breast, visible veins on surface of breast or dimpling of the breast surface

  • Vaginal pain

  • Sudden unintentional weight loss

  • Lymph nodes enlargement (of the armpits)

If your pain in breast is not related to your menstrual cycle, or specific changes as mentioned above occur in the breast, nipples or tissues or if you have severe, unbearable pain in one breast, all of these are a cause for concern.

How to Treat Sharp Pain in Breast That Comes and Goes


Nonprescription Medications

Nonprescription medicines such as Tylenol and NSAIDs such as naproxen, ibuprofen and aspirin can be used to relieve the pain. Read the instructions on the label before using any medicine and in case you are pregnant, consult your physician first. If your age is less than 20 years, do not take aspirin due to the danger of Reye syndrome.


Prescription Drugs

There are certain medicines that can be prescribed by your physician to relieve the breast pain. These include tamoxifen and danazol.


Magnesium Supplements

Taking magnesium supplements can decrease many symptoms related to periods including pain in breasts. Magnesium should be taken 2 weeks before the starting of the next period.


Decrease Intake of Dietary Fat

Breast pain can sometimes be decreased by taking adequate nutrition. Decrease your dietary fat intake by 15% and try to make it your everyday diet routine. You should also reduce the quantity of caffeine you take throughout the day.


Evening Primrose Oil

The balance of fatty acids present in your cells can be changed by this supplement, which may help decrease breast pain.


Vitamin E

Studies have shown a beneficial effect of this vitamin on pain in breast in premenstrual females who experience fluctuating breast pain during the entire menstrual cycle. For females older than 18, and for pregnant and breastfeeding females, the maximum dosage of vitamin E is 1000 mg per day (or 1500 IU).


Lifestyle Changes

You can make various changes in your lifestyle to relieve the pain such as:

  • Wear a supportive bra that decreases the movement of breasts as pain can increase with movement of breasts

  • Hormonal changes can cause breast pain; hence, relax yourself to reduce the stress related hormones, which will help in reducing the pain. Try meditation and visualization to calm the mind.


Changes in Diet

A lot of females have found it helpful to:

  • Limit their salt intake

  • Avoid drinks and foods containing caffeine

  • Eat less baked goods, meat and dairy products (all rich in fat)

  • Eat more fruits, vegetables and grains

When to Seek Medical Help

Though sharp pain in breast that comes and goes is unlikely to be caused by cancer in most of the cases, do not hesitate to consult your physician if you have concern regarding your breast pain or have additional symptoms of breast.

You should immediately consult your physician if your breast pain is associated with any of the following:

  • A lump in your breast or under your arm

  • Discharge from a lump or nipple

  • Family history of breast cancer

  • Swelling and redness in your breast

  • Any symptoms related to pregnancy such as a missed period


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