Breast Tenderness

Last Modified: May 21, 2006


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I am having pain in my breasts (both of them, but more on the left side) at the base - towards the ribcage side. Should I be concerned? The pain is not regular, but is uncomfortable when it does come and has occurred off and on for over a year. Can a blood test show if I have cancer, or do you have to have a mammogram?


Nancy Zieber, RN, MSN, CRNP, Oncology/Hematology Nurse Practitioner, responds:

A blood test cannot show if you have breast cancer. Depending on your age, you might consider a mammogram (if 40 years and older, should get it once a year; start at younger age if positive family history) or an ultrasound (usually used if there is a palpable mass and young age).

Breast tissue will vary in tenderness and how it feels to the touch over the month; this is related to the influence of hormones. It would be good to keep a diary of when the breast discomfort occurs, as it may be cyclic, coming and going with the fluctuation of hormones (i.e. related to the menstrual cycle). Other options would be to use a Vitamin E supplement and eliminate caffeine from your diet, as these things are thought to help relieve breast tenderness. Neither of these is proven, but some women do report improvement of their symptoms. Also, making sure your bras fit appropriately and provide enough support would also help.


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