Breast cancer is a malignant disease that mostly affects women, although it can afflict men as well. The disease is related to an uncontrollable growth of cells in the breast, caused by inherited or acquired gene mutations and promoted by numerous risk factors. Every year in the U.S., about 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in women, and some 40,450 people die from the disease.
In recent years, the widespread use of screening mammograms has increased the number of breast cancers found before symptoms appear and improved survival rates. It is important that patients regularly visit a doctor and be aware of potential signs of breast cancer.
Breast or Nipple Pain as a Symptom of Breast Cancer
Breast or nipple pain is a feeling of discomfort, tenderness, or affliction in any part of the breast or underarm region. It may occur for numerous reasons, and is usually not related to cancer. “Although many women with pain in one or both breasts may be concerned that it is breast cancer, breast pain is NOT commonly a symptom of cancer,” the National Breast Cancer Foundation reports. “There are a number of harmless causes for breast pain and tenderness that may primarily be related to changes in hormone levels.”
Causes of breast or nipple pain include puberty, menstruation and premenstrual syndrome (PMS), pregnancy, recent childbirth, menopause, fibrocystic breasts, or the use of certain medications. When breast or nipple pain is related to cancer, it is the result of some degree of inflammation. Patients should consult with a healthcare provider when breast or nipple pain is accompanied by other symptoms, including a breast lump or mass, swelling of all or part of a breast, skin irritation or dimpling, nipple retraction, nipple discharge other than breast milk, or redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin.
Management of Breast or Nipple Pain in Breast Cancer
Pain related to breast cancer may range from mild to severe, or from short episodes to longer-lasting ones, both because of the cancer itself and as a result of treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy, and other anti-cancer medications. Breast or nipple pain caused by tumors is more common if the disease has spread to other parts of the body. But anyone can experience pain or discomfort following cancer treatments, regardless of the stage of the breast cancer, says the nonprofit organization breastcancer.org.
“You should know that treatment for pain is part of cancer treatment. It is important to resist the still-too-common assumption that because cancer is a serious disease, some level of pain is to be expected. You and your medical team should have a plan in place for treating any pain you may experience before, during, or after your treatment for breast cancer. Most people can get complete relief for their pain — or at least significant relief that allows them to enjoy the activities of daily life. It may take some time to find the right combination and types of pain treatment that work best for you, but the effort will be worth it.”
Note: Breast Cancer News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.