Breast pain - focused in the left breast, right breast, or both - is a common occurrence. Most women - up to 70% - will experience it at some point in their lives, stemming from normal bodily changes that occur during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause. These changes may include the onset of breast lumps, pain, soreness, and shifts in size or shape. Rest assured, most breast tenderness or lumps are not indications of cancer or heart problems, but rather part of the natural process associated with the menstrual cycle and aging.
About Breast Pain
Breast pain - medically referred to as mastalgia, mastodynia, or mammalgia - is characterized by a burning, tightness, dullness, soreness, or swelling occurring in one breast (either the right or the left), or sometimes both. It can be felt throughout the whole breast, just a small part, in the nipple, or in the surrounding area. Pain is subjective, and some women can feel sore with more severity than others.
Most often, breast pain is transient and will disappear on its own, and its pattern is often described as either cyclical or non-cyclical. The former refers to pain that comes and goes with at regular intervals, usually in conjunction with a menstrual cycle, but other intervals are also possible. Non-cyclical pain is discomfort that may be slightly intermittent, but generally prolonged over a stretch of time.
Causes of Left Breast Pain
Some types of breast pain - like that accompanied by a lump or nipple discharge - may warrant additional tests, ordered by a physician, to rule out more serious conditions.These tests include:
- Breast biopsies
- Cytological evaluation of nipple discharge
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)Mammography
Ask your doctor for more details.
It is unknown why one breast may hurt more than the other, but pain in either breast can be triggered by the same underlying factors and is generally not a cause for alarm. The most common cause of breast pain is due to fluctuating hormones - specifically estrogen and progesterone. The time surrounding the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause is when these are most often in flux, and therefore when breast tenderness is likely to be felt. Likewise, the imbalance of estrogen and progesterone during menopause can cause painful changes in the size of the breasts.
Less often, breast pain results from more serious issues, such as:
- Alcohol abuse
- Oral contraceptives
While tenderness is common and does not usually indicate cancer, talking to and getting examined by your doctor will rule out any more serious issues. In fact, cancer is usually painless, which is why regular self-checks are so important.
Dealing with Left Breast Pain
Women looking for a deeper, more long-term solution may want to try more comprehensive treatment options. Find specific information concerning treatments for pain in the left breast.