OHSU

Most Common Questions about Breast Health

Why do my breasts hurt?

Breast tenderness that occurs in the week or two before the onset of menstruation is considered normal. Breast pain that is generalized throughout the breast and is not only associated with the two weeks before menstruation usually has a hormonal component. The breast may feel painful because of hormonal stimulation especially as women age and hormone levels become more erratic. This can sometimes be only on one side. This should be evaluated but will often be benign. Focal pain (pain in one single spot) should be evaluated.

Do you think it is cancer?

Women with a lump, skin puckering, new nipple inversion, focal pain or other sudden changes in their breast should be evaluated. Most of the time the changes in our breasts are NOT cancer but cancer should be ruled out.

I have nipple discharge. Should I be concerned?

Nipple discharge is usually a benign finding. Smoking can increase the chances of a woman having nipple discharge and infections. Nipple discharge that should definitely be evaluated includes these characteristics:

  • one breast
  • one opening on the nipple
  • bloody or clear 
  • appears spontaneously on clothing