Cyclical breast pain - Symptoms 

Symptoms of cyclical breast pain 

In most cases, the symptoms of cyclical breast pain are relatively mild, although some women experience moderate or severe pain.

The pain may be felt as a heaviness or soreness, but it has also been described as a stabbing or burning pain.

It is usually felt in the upper, outer area of your breasts and it may extend from your breasts to your armpits, and sometimes down your arms.

Your breasts may also be tender, with some swelling and general lumpiness – but not a single, hard lump.

The pain occurs at about the same point of your menstrual cycle every month, usually one to three days before the start of your period, and improves at the end of your period. The intensity of the pain will not always be the same.

As cyclical breast pain is related to the menstrual cycle, it usually affects women before the menopause. However, women can sometimes experience symptoms after the menopause if they undergo hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

When to see your GP

Visit your GP if you notice changes to your breasts, such as:

  • a lump or area of thickened tissue in either breast 
  • discharge from either of your nipples (which may be streaked with blood) 
  • a lump or swelling in either of your armpits 
  • a change in the size or shape of one or both of your breasts 
  • dimpling on the skin of your breasts 
  • a rash on or around your nipple 
  • a change in the appearance of your nipple – for example, it becomes sunken into your breast 
  • pain in either of your breasts or armpits that is not related to your period

See your GP if, as well as cyclical breast pain, you also have:

  • any symptoms of an infection in your breast, such as swelling, redness or warmth in your breast, or a high temperature (fever)
  • any symptoms of pregnancy, such as a missed period

If you have breast pain along with other symptoms, or the pain continues throughout your menstrual cycle (not only around your period), it may not be cyclical breast pain. Your GP will be able to advise you further about what the cause may be.

Page last reviewed: 13/09/2012

Next review due: 13/09/2014

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Breast cancer symptoms

Not all breast changes mean breast cancer, but some do. Know what to look out for, such as changes in shape