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Breast Pain (Mastalgia)

Assessing Breast Pain

Your doctor will ask you about your breast health and family history, and then examine your breasts. You may also have a mammogram, ultrasound or both tests to look for the cause of the pain (such as a breast cyst). It's important to tell your doctor where the pain is, how much pain you're having, and how long the pain lasts. It’s also helpful to tell your doctor what you have tried to relieve the pain and what's worked or what hasn’t worked. Use the diagram below to help describe your pain to your doctor or breast health specialist.

Make an appointment to see your doctor if your breast pain:

  • lasts longer than a few weeks
  • is in one area of the breast
  • is getting worse
  • is spreading
  • is affecting your everyday activities
  • is waking you up at night

It may help your doctor find what’s causing your pain if you keep a record of your pain for 3 to 4 months. Use this calendar to help you track your breast pain. When you track your breast pain using a scale of 0 to 10 (with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain you can imagine), you or your doctor may notice a pattern or if it's linked to your lifestyle.

Chest wall pain

Chest wall pain (also called musculoskeletal pain) can be confused with breast pain. Chest wall pain affects the muscles of the chest after a lot of exercise, an injury, or if the area between the ribs and breast bone gets inflamed leading to soreness. Chest wall pain usually has no particular pattern, can affect one or both sides of the chest, and can spread out from the armpit. Physical activity can make the pain worse. This pain often goes away in time. But you should still make an appointment for your doctor to assess the pain, especially if you have a history of trauma or surgery in the area, or have a heart condition. Physiotherapy or massage therapy can help manage chest wall pain.​

Current as of: May 16, 2018

Author: Women’s Health, Alberta Health Services