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What Causes Breast Tenderness?

Breast surgical oncologist Carlie K. Thompson names 3 possible reasons for breast tenderness.

Before you can figure out what’s causing your breast tenderness, Dr. Thompson says you’ll need to know what kind of breast tenderness you're experiencing and where it’s located. 

Hormonal fluctuations

Dr. Thompson says if both breasts are tender, the most common cause is hormonal fluctuations, typically most pronounced right before a period. This is normal, very common, and nothing to be concerned about, although it can be particularly uncomfortable. 

According to Dr. Thompson, “There are no miracle treatments for breast tenderness caused by hormonal fluctuations. However, there is some anecdotal evidence that supplements like evening primrose oil and vitamin E might help breast tenderness caused by hormonal fluctuations.”


Breast pain that is localized to a specific part of the breast can be caused by trauma, according to Dr. Thompson: 

“Trauma includes being hit in the breast and also includes things like not wearing a supportive bra while exercising or wearing an ill-fitting underwire bra. Additionally, the weight of large breasts can cause some discomfort and pain.”

Caffeine or salt

Breast pain or worsening of breast pain can be associated with drinking a lot of caffeine and/or ingesting a lot of salt. 

“All of this being said, it is important to remember that although breast pain and tenderness can have a significant impact on quality of life, in the vast majority of cases, it's not a sign of something bad, such as cancer,” Dr. Thompson says.

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