I was studying for my exams when I leaned back to stretch out my arms and noticed a sudden pain. I stretched again to pinpoint the location of the pain and realised it was coming from my boobs. I tentatively prodded one of them and winced; it was sore and tender all over! Of course the first thoughts running through my head were something along the lines of 'OMG I have cancer', 'I'm going to die', 'What if they get chopped off' etc. etc. I have a tendency to overreact when I don't know what's wrong.
However, as I later found out through research and consulting a doctor, breast pain is very common and there are a range of reasons why it could happen.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., breast pain is any discomfort, tenderness or pain in the breast or underarm region. It is important to note that breast pain is generally NOT a sign of breast cancer.
Breast pain is also called 'mastalgia' and it's really common. According to California Pacific Medical Center, breast pain affects 50% - 70% of women. The pain is categorised as either cyclical or non cyclical.
- Cyclical pain is associated with your menstrual cycle. Pain linked with the menstrual cycle tends to lessen during or after your period.
- Non cyclical pain can have many causes, including injury to the breast. Sometimes non cyclical pain can come from surrounding muscles or tissues rather than the breast. Non cyclical pain is much less common than cyclical pain.
To find out whether your pain is cyclical or non cyclical, you just have to keep a log of your periods and record when you feel pain. After a few cycles, the pattern will become clear and you'll know whether it's to do with your period, or if it's due to other factors.
Reasons for breast pain include:
Puberty in girls (and boys, they have breasts too remember), menstruation and PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome), pregnancy, menopause, certain medications, stress and lumpy breasts due to fibrocystic tissue.
Sometimes breast pain can be caused by something as simple as wearing the wrong bra, and this can also contribute to back pain. Make sure to pop into your nearest undergarment store and get sized correctly; it's usually a service that's offered for free (but if not, pretend you're going to buy a few bras so you can find out your correct size anyway!)
Ultimately, if you have persistent breast pain, you should see your doctor. It's always wise to inform your doctor about any sudden changes in your body and if you're worried then make an appointment; it's better to be safe than sorry.
If you do go to get checked out, the doctor will generally do a physical examination on you and may order a mammogram which is an x-ray of the breasts to find out what's going on.
As it turned out, my breast pain was due to the stress of my exams. I made sure to wear a good bra for their duration and avoided banging into things, with the result being that the pain was completely gone about a week after the last exam finished.