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Breast pain

Mehra Golshan, MD
Section Editor
Anees B Chagpar, MD, MSc, MA, MPH, MBA, FACS, FRCS(C)
Deputy Editor
Wenliang Chen, MD, PhD


Breast pain (mastalgia) is common in women and occasionally occurs in men. Evaluation of breast pain is important to determine whether the pain is due to normal physiological changes related to hormonal fluctuation or to a pathologic process such as breast cancer. Breast pain is usually mild, although approximately 11 percent of affected women will describe their pain as moderate to severe [1].

This topic will discuss the etiology, evaluation, and treatment of breast pain in women. Evaluation of a breast mass is discussed separately. (See "Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of a palpable breast mass".)


Although not completely characterized, the prevalence of breast pain appears to depend on the population studied. As examples:

In one series of 10,000 consecutively seen female patients (mean age, 46 years) referred for breast evaluation, 5 percent had a chief complaint of breast pain [2].

In a separate study of almost 1700 women (mean age, 34 years) surveyed by online questionnaire, over half (51.5 percent) had experienced breast pain [3]. Pain was more commonly reported among older women, those with larger breast sizes, and those less fit and/or physically active. In addition, of those who reported symptoms, 41 and 35 percent reported negative impacts from breast pain on their sexual health and sleep, respectively. Of interest, 10 percent of those symptomatic had reported breast pain as an issue for over half of their lives.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 22, 2016.
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