Many women experience mastalgia—breast pain that is not of cancerous origin. Breast pain and tenderness may be a routine part of their monthly menstrual cycle. But if the pain seems unbearable, or occurs during mid-cycle, it may be time to take action.

When faced with breast pain on a monthly basis, some women suspect the worst and immediately think cancer. Others simply accept the pain as a burden. But neither scenario is necessarily correct. Any persistent, sudden, or severe breast pain warrants a visit to your doctor to rule out a serious illness. If nothing is found, which is often the case, your doctor can work with you to discover the real cause of your discomfort and find a suitable remedy.

Your doctor may not seem overly concerned when you report pain in your breasts. In fact, most breast pain is caused by problems that are not life-threatening, and only a small percent of diagnosed breast cancers present with pain as a symptom. Physical exam of the breast is usually the first step in a diagnosis. If the physical exam is normal, your doctor will make a decision about whether testing, such as mammography or ultrasound studies are needed.

You will be taught to determine whether your pain is cyclic or noncyclic. Keeping a daily chart of breast changes and pain can help you understand your body's changes and what might be causing the pain. Cyclic and noncyclic pain can be caused by a wide array of factors and sometimes can be reduced by changing your diet or medication.