Have you ever linked a painful breast to breast cancer? Don’t you wonder why you get such a pain in the breast sometimes? If not you, maybe someone you know might be suffering from a painful breast or breast pain.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women worldwide, and the second leading cause of death in women in the United States. Nearly 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will get breast cancer!
Today’s post is very close to my heart because I’ve lost my Mom to cancer, though lung cancer. And I can understand the pain cancer patients undergo.
“An individual doesn’t get cancer, a family does.” ~ Terry Tempest Williams
You can read more about cancer, its causes and prevention in an older post on this blog.
Breast Cancer Affects Men & Women
Did you know that both, men and women can get breast cancer? They can both have aching, tender, and painful breasts.
Breast cancer is quite rare in men, and breast pain in men is seldom a sign of male breast cancer.
Common causes of breast pain in men are relatively benign. A few things that may cause a painful breast are breast cyst, breast injury, mastitis, runner’s nipple, fibroadenoma, and alcoholism.
However, women complain more of painful breasts because they have more breast tissue than men do. Whatever be the reason, you need to find out the cause of the pain.
I won’t go into the details about what is breast cancer as you all must be aware of this dreaded disease.
Instead, we will discuss about breast pain or a painful breast that some of you might have experienced, and often linked it with breast cancer.
Well, that is not always the case. Breast pain is normally not a sign of breast cancer.
In reality, breast cancer is a slow-moving disease that uses the resources of your body to grow and prosper – all by hiding within the breast tissue. Isn’t that sneaky?
Breast cancer doesn’t normally occur due to breast pain. However, if the cancer spreads and goes beyond a certain stage, it can turn painful.
“Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.” ~ Jim Valvano
What Causes a Painful Breast
Pain in the breast, or mastalgia, occurs rarely with breast cancer. In most cases, breast pain happens due to the following reasons:
- Menstrual cycle.
- Benign non-hormonal causes.
- Breast cysts.
- Blocked milk ducts.
- Some infections.
- Shingles (a painful rash caused by reactivation of the “chickenpox virus”)
- Certain medications.
- Liver damage due to alcoholism.
A hard clump of breast cancer cells or a breast tumor normally doesn’t cause breast pain, unless it reaches nearly 2 cm (0.8 inches) in diameter, which even then might not cause pain.
In fact, just 5 to 15% of women diagnosed with breast cancer complain of a painful breast.
How Does a Breast Pain Feel Like
The pain in the breast that occurs due to breast cancer usually occurs only in one breast. Pain due to breast cancer can be very specific, persistent, and always hurts in one spot.
But, breast cancer can even be present in your breast before it causes pain.
You would need to consult your doctor for a clinical breast examination if you have other symptoms of breast cancer. These could be sudden swelling of your breasts, nipple retraction, or sudden skin changes.
“Cancer is an opportunity to sit down and look into yourself and find the answers. Yes, it’s serious, but it’s not the end-all.” ~ Melissa Etheridge
When Breast Cancer Causes Pain
If cancer causes pain in the breast, it could be due to breast tumors that are over 2 cm in size. The tumor in the breast pushes into nearby healthy tissues.
Painful breast or tenderness is often one of the symptoms for women with inflammatory breast cancer. This rare cancer tends to grow quickly and causes dimpling and reddening of the skin over the breast.
Another rare form of breast cancer, called Paget’s disease of the nipple can cause burning and pain, along with irritation of the nipple.
If there is only one painful breast that constantly hurts, it might be a reason for concern, especially if it gets worse without any reason.
The pain could also occur due to symptoms of metastatic breast cancer.
In such cases the cancer spreads to the bones, brains, or your spinal cord. It might cause headaches, bone pain, back pain, and weakness in the legs.
If the breast cancer spreads to the adrenal glands, it could result in dull back pain. Or if it spreads to the liver, the pain might occur in the upper right part of the abdomen.
If you’ve been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, it’s best to report the pain symptoms to your doctor. Timely diagnosis and treatments can often bring relief to cancer pain, so don’t hesitate to complain.
When to See a Doctor
If you are having breast pain or if you have a painful breast, you would need to see your doctor if there is:
- Blood or pus discharge from your nipples.
- Redness, fever, or any other sign of a breast infection.
- Breasts are swollen or hard soon after childbirth.
- A painful breast lump that doesn’t go away after your menstrual cycle.
- Persistent pain in your breast without any clear reason.
Remember – when you experience pain it means that something is going on within your body.
However, pain in the breast doesn’t mean you have breast cancer.
Be sure to locate the pain. Find out if it’s inside the breasts, or beneath it. What kind of pain is it? When did it first occur? Note down all such symptoms to discuss with your doctor.
“Every woman needs to know the facts. And the fact is, when it comes to breast cancer, every woman is at risk.” ~ Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Things to Remember About Breast Cancer
- Perform regular self-examinations whether you feel pain in your breasts or not.
- Watch for early breast cancer symptoms.
- If there’s a high risk factor of breast cancer in your family or you have a painful breast – don’t ignore it.
- Get your mammograms done annually when you are between 40-60 years of age and thereafter, or as suggested by your doctor.
- Maintain a healthy weight because studies indicate that losing weight lowers the risk of breast cancer.
- Choose your food and beverages wisely and avoid unhealthy ways to lose weight. According to studies, eating a healthy diet can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk for breast cancer. Similarly, limit your intake of alcohol, or moderate your consumption, which would help reduce cancer risk.
- Exercise regularly. Even walking for five days a week for 45 minutes decreases the risk of breast cancer.
Holistic Ways to Reduce Breast Pain
Besides the recommended treatment and medications, you can even try holistic ways to reduce a painful breast or breast pain occurring due to breast cancer. Something that might help:
- If you can get a lymphatic massage from a trained therapist, as they are helpful in treating certain types of pain in the breast.
- Try applying creams around the painful breast as it will help relieve some pressure in the area.
- Another natural remedy is castor oil, which has been known to loosen up the breast tissue. If you do try it, you would need to lie down for 20 minutes once it’s applied.
- Purchase topical iodine that is not costly, and apply a quarter-sized area of the iodine once a night to the breast tissue. It balances out the pain by adjusting the hormones in most cases.
- Sometimes even emotional factors create pain. So, try relaxing techniques like meditation and yoga, and find the reason behind the pain.
- Having your friends and family around you is the best way to deal with breast cancer.
Spread Awareness About Breast Cancer
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM). It’s an annual international health campaign – a perfect time to make everyone around us aware about breast cancer.
It is an opportunity to promote screening and early detection of breast cancer. It’s often called a “pink day” to raise awareness.
It’s a way to honor those who we’ve lost to breast cancer, and support those who are facing this dreaded disease bravely.
I marvel at these brave women who have battled breast cancer. They are a true inspiration to many. Remember, early detection and treatment is the key to fight breast cancer.
I had to share this wonderful video that really moved me. It shows how supportive family and friends of those who have breast cancer are, which helps them face it.
That’s the kind of family and friends we all need, and this is how we need to support all those who are battling their lives against breast cancer.
Reach out and tell them you are with them. It matters.
“I’m Gonna Love You Through It” ~ Martina McBride ~ YouTube Video
“National Breast Cancer Awareness Month reminds us all that when it comes to breast cancer, the difference between life and death for many women can be measured in a commitment to mammograms, self-exams, and regular doctor visits.” ~ Olympia Snowe
So, think pink everyone and help spread the word. You never know who might need it.
Over to you –
Did you think that a painful breast could lead to breast cancer? Do you know of anyone who had/has breast pain or breast cancer? Share your experiences and stories below.
Posted on: October 5th, 2012
Last Updated on: January 9th, 2013