Breast pain is one of the most common complaints heard by a breast imager. It inevitably generates a lot of questions. Because it is so common, over time I have developed somewhat of a standard speech for patients that answers the most common questions and concerns. This is what I usually say:
The good news is…breast pain is almost never associated with breast cancer. Cancer almost always presents as a painless lump in the breast. Having said that, we don’t like to take any chances and we fully investigate the cause of the breast pain. Once we have completely evaluated the cause of the pain, and if we find nothing concerning with the history, the physical examination, and the imaging findings (mammogram and ultrasound), we are as certain as we can be that there is nothing to worry about from a cancer screening standpoint.
The bad news is…breast pain is not easily treated. There is one proven, tried and true therapy that will relieve some of the pain…anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen (Advil or Aleve). However, there are many patients that cannot and or should not take these medications so check with your referring physician first. There are a couple of other therapies that vary in their effectiveness depending on the patient. Some patients swear that eliminating or cutting back on caffeine intake significantly reduces or eliminates the pain while others say it has no effect. Some patients also report benefit from vitamin E supplementation while others do not. Of all of the therapies that I have heard patients try, these are the only ones that are consistently mentioned to me to provide relief.
There are always specific questions and I do my best to answer them. After all questions have been answered I always like to express one final thought…I am always happy to have a patient investigate any breast concern no matter how “small” or “trivial” that a patient may think it is…because you never know…and in this field it can never hurt to exercise a little caution.
Ryan Polselli, M.D.