Feeling Breast Pain:
is usually not
a sign of breast cancer
. In fact, many of us who are diagnosed with breast cancer after a suspicious mammogram
- we had no breast pain, so how could something be wrong? The truth is that breast cancer is a rather sneaky disease
that hides within breast tissue, using your body's resources to grow and thrive. Breast cancer doesn't usually begin by causing breast pain
, but if gets beyond a certain point, it can become painful.
Most Breast Pain Is Benign:
Breast Cancer Pain Statistics:
A breast tumor
- a hard clump of breast cancer cells - usually doesn't cause breast pain unless it reaches the size of 2 centimeters (almost 0.8 inches) in diameter. But a tumor can be larger than 2 cm and still not cause pain. In fact, only about 5 to 15% of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer complain of breast pain. Only 7% of those diagnosed with breast cancer seek a doctor because of breast pain, excluding other symptoms.
How Breast Cancer Pain May Feel:
If breast cancer
is the cause of breast pain, it may occur only in one breast. Breast cancer pain can be persistent and very specific, always hurting in just one spot. But, breast cancer can be present in your breast before it causes pain. If you have other symptoms of breast cancer, such as nipple retraction
, sudden swelling of your breast, or sudden skin changes, consult your doctor for a clinical breast exam
Metastatic Breast Cancer Pain:
When cancer does
cause breast pain, breast tumors over 2 cm in size could be the cause, but it could also come from symptoms of inflammatory
or metastatic breast cancer
. If cancer spreads to your bones, brain or spinal cord, it may cause bone pain, headaches, or back pain with leg weakness. In case breast cancer travels to the adrenal glands, you may feel a dull back pain. If it spreads to the liver, you could have pain in the upper right part of the abdomen.
When to See Your Doctor:
If you have been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, be sure to report pain symptoms to your doctor and get them checked out. Cancer pain can often be alleviated with treatments; so don't be shy about complaining. Sometimes a headache is just a headache, and other pains are due to arthritis and similar causes. Pain is a signal of some type of change, so investigate it and get a proper diagnosis.
Breast Pain. Bonica's Management of Pain, page 1052-1053. Jane C Ballantyne, Scott M Fishman, James P. Rathmell. Published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009.
Racial Difference in Pain During 1 Year Among Women With Metastatic Breast Cancer: A Hazards Analysis of Interval-Censored Data. Liana D. Castel, Benjamin R. Saville, Venita DePuy, Paul A. Godley, Katherine E. Hartmann, and Amy P. Abernethy, CANCER; Published Online: November 26, 2007 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr. 23133); Print Issue Date: January 1, 2008.
The Evaluation of Common Breast Problems. Monica Morrow, M.D. American Academy of Family Physicians. American Family Physicians. April 15, 2000.