What Are the Causes of Sudden Pain in the Breast?


There are many things that can cause pain in the breast. Sometimes this pain may occur suddenly. Most of the time, it is caused by conditions that are nothing to worry about, but any unusual pain--especially if it is accompanied by inflammation, fever or shortness of breath--should be brought to the attention of a health professional.

Breast Cancer

  • Most cancerous lumps are not painful. Inflammatory breast cancer (IBS), however, is a rare form of breast cancer that is extremely aggressive and does not present with a lump. Since IBS progresses quickly, it may come on suddenly with redness and a swollen breast. There may even be a feeling of warmth in the breast. This is caused by a blockage in the lymph vessels of the skin by the cancer cells.


  • Breast pain is often one of the first symptoms of pregnancy, as the breasts begin to grow to prepare for lactation (producing milk). It is most severe in the first trimester and occurs more often in young women. Some breast pain is not uncommon after giving birth, but sudden pain could indicate an abscess in a woman who is breast-feeding.


  • Cysts that come and go with your monthly cycle can be painful. Fibrocystic changes is a common condition that causes breast pain for many women. The pain may sometimes come on suddenly. Fibroadenomas can also be very painful. Both of these conditions are non-cancerous, but the lumps can be removed if they are too large or cause excessive pain. Hormonal changes due to menopause can cause sudden breast pain.

Injury and Infection

  • An injury to the breast or muscles around the breast could cause sudden pain. Damage to the back or neck from arthritis may affect the nerves to cause sudden pain in the breast. An infection in the breast can come on suddenly--especially in the days following childbirth. This can be very painful, often accompanied by swelling and fever. An infection needs to be treated with antibiotics by a doctor.

Other Conditions

  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a rare disease of the connective tissue, could cause breast pain. Costochondritis, an inflammation in the chest wall, is another condition that can cause sudden, severe breast pain. It can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications that will help relieve the pain. It is also possible to feel sudden breast pain from liver damage.

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