Throughout a woman's life, problems with breast or nipple pain are sure to arise. Although these symptoms are often quite normal, they can sometimes indicate more serious problems.
The Female Breast: Identification
Understanding the anatomy of the breast, as well as the function of its various parts, may help to specify the location and possible causes of breast and nipple pain. The female breast is composed of fat, connective tissue, milk ducts, lobes, lobules, and various blood vessels. (See Resource 1) The various ducts, which link together the lobes and lobules, come to an end at the nipple.
Breast and nipple pain can manifest itself in different ways. Many women experience pain in the upper area of the breast. Pain can also be closer to the nipple, or even feel as if it is 'in' the nipple itself. Often, breast and nipple pain is accompanied by lumps in the breast. Regularity of pain can vary.
Constant, dull aching pain in the outer extremities of the breast is a normal problem, and often results from changes in the breast tissue, often referred to as 'fibrocystic' changes. (See Reference 3) Pain in the nipple may indicate infection, or it could result from injury or friction. While nipple pain is not usually serious, see a doctor if you experience any nipple discharge. Other causes of breast and nipple pain include benign tumors, mastitis, and cancerous tumors (although these usually do not cause painful symptoms). (See Reference 2)
Treatment depends on the severity of the underlying cause. In the case of fibrocystic breast changes, there is no cure. However, pain relievers may help to lessen pain. Other treatments include antibiotics (for mastitis cases), other medications, and surgery (for breast abscesses or cancerous tumors).
During puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause, changes occur in the breasts that may cause painful symptoms. These are normal, and usually no object of concern. However, if your symptoms are accompanied by fever, or become very serious, be sure to see a doctor.