What do I do if I have severe breast pain?

Ibuprofen, Vitamin E, evening primrose oil and black cohosh may help with breast pain. Wearing a supportive bra and minimizing caffeine is also effective in managing this condition. The pain may come on suddenly and usually goes away after several weeks or months. See a breast specialist if you experience severe pain which lasts for a longer period, or if it is associated with a lump or mass. Tests will be scheduled to rule out cancer. It is best to see a breast specialist if you have severe breast pain to ensure the problem is harmless or to catch the problem early, so it can be handled if it is cancerous.


Breast Infection

A painful, red breast usually indicates an infection is present. Also known as mastitis, it is most commonly associated with breast feeding, but may occur in women of all ages regardless of nursing status. Breast infections are rare in healthy women, but diabetes, AIDs and women with an impaired immune system may be more susceptible to mastitis.

In a nursing woman, bacteria from the baby’s mouth can enter the milk duct through a crack in the nipple. Incomplete emptying of the breast can also contribute to the problem. Symptoms of a breast infection include tenderness and swelling of the breast, body aches, fever accompanied by chills, engorgement of the breast and fatigue.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should be examined by your physician who will likely prescribe antibiotics to combat the infection. An ultrasound may needed to rule out an abscess (infected fluid collection) which may need to be drained.

If the redness on the breast continues to hurt or fails to resolve with a short course of antibiotics, a biopsy should be done to rule out the serious but rare condition of inflammatory breast cancer. Repetitive breast infections may benefit by removal of the infected, cystic breast tissue.


Nipple Discharge

Nipple discharge is fairly common and rarely an indication of breast cancer. In women who are not nursing, nipple discharge can be alarming but is usually a sign of an infection.

Discharge may be clear, milky, yellow, green, reddish brown or bloody. Discharge may be spontaneous or only present when the nipple is manipulated. Cysts may drain out of the nipple and are watery and variably colored. Thick pus drainage, generally associated with a painful pink nipple, is a sign of infection and requires antibiotics.

Bloody nipple discharge, especially when spontaneous (found on nightgown or bra) is usually due to a benign breast tumor called a papilloma. Identification of this condition is usually by ultrasound and mammogram. Surgical removal is recommended.

Rarely, bloody nipple discharge, whether spontaneous or when the nipple is squeezed, is indicative of a cancer. All nipple discharge should be evaluated by professional breast examination and imaging studies. Biopsy is generally only required in those situations when a mass is identified or the discharge is bloody.


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