A stabbing pain in breast tissue may seem like a worrying symptom since it can be a symptom of breast cancer. However, breast pain can be caused by a whole host of things and is often not something to worry about. These are some of the most common causes of breast pain.
Hormone levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle and it is this that can cause breast pain that reoccurs each month. The breast ducts enlarge when there are higher levels of estrogen in the body, while progesterone causes the swelling of milk glands. Both of these can cause breast pain which can range in severity. Often the sensation is a dull ache and a feeling of heaviness, but it can feel like a prickle or stabbing pain in breast tissue.
Breast pain typically occurs during the second half of the cycle before menstruation begins, but this varies from person to person. Some women also notice that their breasts become lumpy around this time. If you experience pain around the same time each month, it is likely the menstrual cycle is to blame and there's nothing to worry about. Over the counter pain medications can help, but if the pain becomes particularly difficult to deal with you could speak to your doctor who may be able to prescribe medicines to control hormone production.
Bras that fit incorrectly can leave the breasts without adequate support, which can lead to breast pain. Sometimes this is a stabbing pain, and other times it is general soreness and sensitivity. Often this is most prevalent in women with larger breasts.
Getting professionally measured and fitted for a bra which provides good support may help to reduce this type of breast pain.
Some medicines such as anti-psychotics, anti-depressants and anti-fungals can in rare cases cause breast pain. It's also common to experience breast pain after starting, changing or coming off hormonal contraceptives.
If you think your breast pain could be down to medications, speak to your doctor to discuss the problem as there could be alternative medicines available.
One of the early signs of pregnancy is breast pain, so if you've noticed the pain come on suddenly having never experienced it before, look out for other signs, such as:
This condition causes the breast to become red, swollen and painful and may cause stabbing pains. It is usually caused by breastfeeding but can also occur as a result of a bacterial infection.
Mastitis is usually easy to spot because it causes a wide range of symptoms, such as:
A simple course of antibiotics is usually the best treatment for mastitis, but be sure to visit your doctor soon to prevent it developing into an abscess.
An abscess could be causing a stabbing pain in the breast. This is where pus collects as a result of a bacterial infection such as mastitis. They usually cause red, swollen lumps to appear on the breast and can cause skin in the surrounding area to swell. You may also notice a fever.
Antibiotics are almost always used to treat breast abscesses, but in some cases the pus may need to be drained too. This is a minor procedure that usually takes just a few minutes.
Sometimes breast lumps can occur in the breasts and these can feel painful or cause stabbing pain. Often they are completely benign and require no treatment. There are two main types:
Smooth, firm lumps which can move around easily beneath the skin. They are common in younger women, and usually don't require treatment unless they become very large and uncomfortable, in which case surgery may be an option. Sometimes they go away on their own.
Fluid-filled sacs inside the breast. They are most common in women aged 35 to 50, but can occur at any time. They are benign and usually don't require treatment unless they become very painful, in which case it may be necessary to drain the fluid from them.
A stabbing pain in breast tissue is rarely a sign of breast cancer unless it's accompanied by other symptoms. It's important to check your breasts regularly and recognize the symptoms of breast cancer, which include:
If you've noticed any of these symptoms you should visit your doctor urgently who will examine you and arrange for further tests. Getting treatment quickly ensures the best chances of survival.