Breast soreness

5 June 2021

Photo 66205848 / Breast © Kiosea39 |

Causes of breast soreness in women

Is this common?

Yes, breast soreness is common. For some women, it is only on one breast or part of one breast, for other women it is both breasts. It can be aching, stabbing, throbbing, dull or sharp. It can be constant or intermittent. It can range from mild to severe.

What are the causes?

  • Hormonal
    • Non-pregnant, premenopausal

Lots of women have breast soreness due to hormonal fluctuations through the menstrual cycle. In the few days to the week prior to the period, the hormonal rise in oestrogen causes glands to swell causing the breast tenderness. This breast tenderness is often bilateral. Often, once the period comes, the soreness subsides. By the end of the period, the breast soreness is often resolved. This swelling of the breast can often cause lumpiness. If a women is able to feel a lump or is unsure about lumpiness in her breast, she needs to have a clinical examination with her doctor.

Hormonal breast soreness is normal, but often not severe. If it is limiting daily function or lasts for longer, then it should be reviewed by a medical practitioner and further investigations may be warranted.

  • Pregnant

In the first trimester of pregnancy, breast soreness is very common. In fact, it is often the first sign that the woman is pregnant. This is due to the sudden surge in hormones to accommodate the growing embryo.

  • Non-hormonal
    • Breast cysts

Breast cysts can often become sore with possible lumps, able to be felt by the woman, especially during the time the hormones are rising. They can become more sensitive, increase in size and make the breast feel lumpy. To confirm the presence of breast cysts, an ultrasound can be organized by your doctor.

  • Medications eg. oral contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy
    • Breast injury – eg. from previous surgery causing scars or from radiotherapy from treatment for breast cancer or from breast implants
    • Chest wall pain – eg. from physical activity that strains the chest wall muscles or from conditions affecting chest wall, muscle or ribs
    • Breast infection – this is more common when the woman is breastfeeding
    • Non-supportive bra
    • Excess weight

Breast soreness and breast cancer

Breast soreness does not usual associate with breast cancer, but is not impossible. Inflammatory breast cancer is rare, but can present with red, swollen and painful breast. Therefore, it is important that breast soreness MUST BE reviewed by a medical practitioner.

What will the doctor do?

The doctor will begin by taking a history followed by a clinical examination. An ultrasound or mammogram or MRI may be required after. Referral to specialist care may be necessary depending on the findings.

Please ensure that you see a doctor when you have breast soreness so that you can be properly reviewed and the cause of the breast soreness can be found.

If you have any questions or concerns, please see your doctor.