- Yet, every woman still dreads upon that “painful sensation” in the breast. The concept of painful breast tissues as the symptom of breast cancer is one of the common myths probably arising from fear and lack of information.
Let me begin with my heartfelt appreciation to the campaigns in breast cancer awareness, early detections and treatments. These campaigns have played a wide role in breast cancer survivorship.
Yet, every woman still dreads upon that “painful sensation” in the breast. The concept of painful breast tissues as the symptom of breast cancer is one of the common myths probably arising from fear and lack of information.
Well, a couple of weeks ago in this column, I had talked about key cancer warnings that should NEVER be ignored. When it comes to breast cancer particularly, a lump in the breast is known by many as one of the key breast cancer signs.
Just to remind my dear readers, apart from lump, breast cancer is also accompanied by other major warnings such as swelling of all or part of the breast (even if no distinct lump is felt), irritation of the breast skin or dimpling, nipple discharge (other than breast milk) as well as breast or nipple pain. But if you find painful sensation in your breast however, don’t panic.
Interestingly, most women, diagnosed with breast cancer haven’t had any pain from it. At least two in three women get breast pain, ranging from mild discomfort in few days a month, to a source of constant distress.
Three types of breast pain classified by their cause and etiology
• Cyclical breast pain: The most common kind of breast pain is ‘cyclical’-starting in the second half of your cycle and stopping with your period. This begins commonly in the age of 30s or 40s and goes away after the menopause.
Cyclical breast pain is thought to happen because your breast tissue is particularly sensitive to the normal hormone change during your menstrual cycle. That’s why some women find their symptoms get worse when they get pregnant or take oral contraceptive pills. The good thing is that, this is one thing you won’t have to worry about, even after you go through menopause.
• Non-cycliclical breast pain: This kind of breast pain doesn’t come and go predictably at the same time every month. It’s more common in women who are over 40s and can happen after the menopause. The key is to work out if the pain is coming from the breasts themselves or from the muscles and the bones of the chest wall under the breasts. Your doctor can help you tease this out.
• Mastitis and shingles: Shingles can cause pain over the skin of the breasts before a rash occurs. An infection in the breast called mastitis also causes pain usually on one side. Pregnancy can cause pain and swelling in the breast. Pain is rarely a sign of cancer or non-cancerous cyst especially if there is no lump to feel. However, pain in the breast should always be checked if it persists.
It’s important to be aware of changes in your breasts. Use the flat of your fingers to check for lumps or changes in your breast tissues. Get into the habit of looking and feeling your breast when you are in bathroom or bedroom.
Be alert for discharge (particularly if it’s blood stained) from your nipples or changes in their shape such as newly turned-in nipple.