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Breast Tenderness


Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What is breast tenderness?

Tenderness in the breast can occur as a result of both normal changes and disease processes. Breast tenderness may worsen with pressure (sometimes with very little pressure) or may not be affected by pressure at all, depending on the cause. It may also be associated with breast swelling.

Breast tenderness may be associated with either hormonal or reproductive changes (such as early pregnancy, premenstrual syndrome, or premenstrual tension), dietary changes (such as large amounts of caffeine), use of estrogen medications (such as birth control pills), weight gain leading to breast ptosis (drooping), or a primary disorder in which breast tenderness is just one of several symptoms. Some of these primary disorders may include mastitis (breast inflammation), which is often experienced while breastfeeding, fibrocystic breast disease (benign breast changes), or more serious disorders such as ectopic pregnancy (life-threatening pregnancy growing outside the uterus), breast abscess, or a benign or malignant tumor.

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Breast tenderness that is cyclical may be related to hormonal changes and reproductive cycles. Often a simple change in diet or occasional use of over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen can be enough to alleviate the pain. On the other hand, some symptoms (such as persistent pain, tenderness lasting more than two weeks, and tenderness with no relation to your menstrual cycle) may indicate a more serious condition, such as breast abscess or breast cancer.

Seek prompt medical care if you experience any of the following symptoms: heat or redness in the breast tissues or on the breast surface; breast pain on one side only; fever or chills; new, unusual or changing lumps in the breast; abscess or discharge not related to breastfeeding; or bleeding from the nipple.You should also seek prompt medical care if your breast tenderness is persistent or causes you concern.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 25, 2016

© 2018 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

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Medical References

  1. Breast – premenstrual tenderness and swelling. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  2. Breast infection. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH.

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