How to recognise the difference between regular breast pain and breast cancer pain

By Dr. Sajjan Rajpurohit in Breast Cancer

Nov 24 , 2022 | 2 min read

Breast pain can be alarming, but it does not always indicate something is wrong. We all experience occasional breast soreness and pain, even during a menstrual cycle. Although there are many potential causes for breast pain, in most cases, it is just a benign condition that will resolve without treatment.

Types of breast pain

There are two types of breast pain: cyclical breast pain and non-cyclical breast pain. Cyclical breast pain is often linked to the menstrual cycle and goes away after your period. Non-cyclical breast pain is unrelated to the menstrual cycle and can occur in one or both breasts. It is often described as a shooting, burning, or aching pain.

Best ways to recognize the difference between regular breast pain and breast cancer pain

It is necessary to distinguish between regular breast pain and the pain associated with breast cancer, as the latter can be a sign of a severe health condition. Some tips on how to tell the difference include:

Regular breast pain is usually:

  • dull and achy

  • felt in both breasts

  • worse before your period starts

Breast cancer pain is usually:

  • sharp and localized

  • felt in one specific area

  • present even when not menstruating

If you're unsure whether your pain is caused by breast cancer or something else, it's always best to consult a doctor.

What are the causes of breast pain?

There are many potential causes of breast pain, and it can be challenging to determine the root cause without medical help. However, you should be aware of some common causes of breast pain.

One potential cause of breast pain is your menstrual cycle. Breast tissue is sensitive to changes in hormone levels, and pain may occur just before or during your period. If you notice that your breast pain corresponds with your menstrual cycle, it is likely nothing to worry about.

Another common cause of breast pain is pregnancy. As your breasts prepare to produce milk for your baby, they may become engorged and uncomfortable. This usually subsides after you have given birth and begun breastfeeding.

If you are not pregnant or menstruating, there are other potential causes of breast pain that you should be aware of. These include:

  • Cysts: Non-cancerous growths can develop in the breasts and cause pain or discomfort. Cysts generally go away on their own, but if they are large or persistent, they may need to be removed surgically.

  • Fibrocystic breasts: A condition characterized by lumpiness and discomfort in the breasts due to fibrous tissue and cysts. This is not a cancerous condition but can be painful or uncomfortable.

  • Mastitis: An infection of the breast tissue that can occur during breastfeeding. Symptoms include redness, warmth, swelling, and pain.

When to Visit a Doctor for Breast Pain

It is essential to determine whether breast pain is something to worry about. If lumps, redness, or discharge accompany the pain, it's important to see a doctor immediately. Other warning signs include persistent pain that lasts for a week without relief and pain that occurs only in one breast.

If you're unsure whether your breast pain is cause for concern, it is best to be cautious and make an appointment with your doctor. They will be able to help you figure out what is going on and provide you with the appropriate treatment.


If you're experiencing breast pain, it's important to recognize the difference between regular breast pain and breast cancer pain. While the two can often feel similar, there are some key differences that you should be aware of. If you're unsure about your feelings, always consult a medical professional. They can help determine whether your pain is something to worry about.