What are the Causes of Breast Ache?

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  • Written By: Susan Grindstaff
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2019
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Breast ache in women is generally the result of hormonal changes within the body that lead to swelling. In both men and women, breast ache can also be caused by strained muscles in the chest area. Most of the time, breast ache does not indicate a serious condition, but in some cases, it may signal tumors or cysts.

Women often experience breast tenderness in the days leading up to menstruation. This pain typically appears three to five days prior to menstruation and stops shortly after bleeding begins. When menstruation is near, the body produces hormones that cause the milk glands to swell, which usually causes some pain and tenderness in the breast. Some women experience this pain through the entire menstrual cycle, but this is considered unusual.

Breast pain associated with the menstruation cycle is seen most often in women who are in their early 30s and beyond. Some research seems to suggests there be a connection between breast pain and menopause. The nearer a women is to menopause, the more likely she is to experience breast ache, and in this age group, the pain is often reported as more severe. This type of breast pain usually disappears entirely after menopause is complete.


In some instances, in both men and women, breast pain can be the result of cysts or tumors in the breast tissue or mammary glands. Mammary glands are the glands inside the breast that produce milk, and are commonly associated with breast cancer. Breast ache that is also accompanied by a lump or knot in the breast should be reported to a doctor.

In diagnosing pain that is accompanied by a lump in the breast, doctors typically perform a mammogram. Mammograms allow the doctor to see what is inside the breast without performing an x-ray. Doctors sometimes use ultrasound for breast examination, but it is not considered as reliable as mammography. In-depth breast examination can sometimes be expensive, but many local health offices sometimes offer free mammograms, often as part of local health fairs.

Sometimes, routine daily activities can be the cause of breast ache. Pectoral muscles are considered to be fairly easy to strain, because for many people, these muscles do not routinely get enough exercise. Any heavy lifting or unusual upper body movement can put strain on the pectorals, which sometimes leads to soreness. It is not unusual to see swelling in the breast when pectoral muscles have been damaged or strained. Any breast pain that persists for several days probably warrants a visit to a physician.


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