What Causes Left Breast Pain?

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What are the causes of pain in the left breast ? There are many possible causes for this symptom – some are related to breast problems and some are not. When your left chest hurts, your first priority is to make sure it's not your heart.

Get Medical Information / Emily Roberts

Step one: check your heart

While your left chest pain is likely caused by something else, the first question to ask yourself is whether you might be having symptoms of a heart attack. Keep in mind that the symptoms of heart disease in women are often very different from those in men. The pain can be mild, feel like burning, or just chest pain. Due to the often vague and subtle symptoms, women are more likely to miss them and die of a heart attack as a result.

Everyone should be familiar with the symptoms of a heart attack , which can include:

  • Chest pain or pressure (however, between a quarter and a third of people who have had a heart attack do not experience chest pain or pressure)
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, or left arm.
  • Difficulty breathing (especially common in women who have had a heart attack)
  • Perspiration
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Feeling that something is wrong or a sense of impending doom.

If you are unsure of the source of your pain and have a risk factor for heart disease, it is best to play it safe and seek immediate medical attention.

What is the origin?

After making sure you don't need to call 9-1-1, the first step in figuring out the source of your left chest pain is deciding whether your chest pain is coming from or related to other structures above or below. . Your chest. Sometimes this is difficult to determine and you need to consider breast and non-breast causes.

Where we feel pain does not necessarily tell us where the medical problem is. Some nerves in our body are very specific. For example, the feeling on the tip of a finger can usually be determined very precisely.

Other nerves are less specific. They alert you to a general area of your body that is affected by a process, but they don't pinpoint the exact area of the problem as precisely. It is common not to know if the pain is felt in the chest and not in some other structure in the vicinity of the left breast.

Breast-related reasons

Certain breast conditions can only cause pain on the left side of the chest, including:

  • Trauma
  • Breast surgery
  • Diseases and infections of the milk ducts.
  • Hormonal causes
  • Lumps

Trauma

Your breasts are covered with elastic, sensitive skin that protects nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues, as well as the ducts and lobes for the production of breast milk. If you've had a chest injury, you can expect bruising and pain that will persist until the skin and underlying tissues heal.

Sometimes the chest injury heals with scar tissue, and this scar tissue can cause pain (fat necrosis). Fat necrosis can also present as a hard lump, making it difficult to distinguish it from breast cancer, even with imaging studies such as mammography .

Breast surgery

After any type of breast surgery, be it enlargement , reduction , or reconstruction , your breasts will hurt as the incisions heal and scar tissue forms. As with an injury-related scar, pain can come and go even long after surgery.

Depending on the type of surgery, you may experience:

  • Burning pain in the nipples.
  • Sharp, stabbing pain in the chest
  • Feeling of tightness or cramps in the chest, shoulders, neck, and back.
  • Nerve pain (burning, tingling, or concussion) in the chest, chest, arm, or armpit

Diseases and infections of the milk ducts.

Several benign but painful conditions can develop within the breast milk ducts.

  • An abscess may form under the nipple or areola, causing pain, redness, and fever.
  • The milk ducts can become clogged, resulting in a hard, tender lump.
  • If the blocked duct is infected, it can cause mastitis (inflammation of the breast), causing the breast to become swollen, painful, warm, and red. or duct ectasia , which can cause pain, irritation, redness, and possibly a thick, sticky discharge from the nipple.
  • Breast cysts and fibroadenomas can grow and overgrow the milk system or connective tissue, causing aches and pains.

Contact your healthcare provider.

If you suspect a sinus infection or inflammation, it is important to see a doctor or gynecologist. You may need to take antibiotics or other prescription drugs to fix this problem.

Hormonal causes

Changes in hormones can also cause breast tenderness, especially when levels change during the menstrual cycle. or while taking hormones such as oral contraceptive pills , fertility treatments, or hormone replacement therapy. Pain can be felt in one or both breasts and, to a greater extent, in one breast. It can also spread to the armpit.

Hypothyroidism , characterized by low levels of thyroid hormones in the body, can also be associated with hormonal fluctuations and benign breast conditions that cause chest pain. Graves' disease , which is an autoimmune disease associated with excess thyroid hormone, is also associated with breast changes that can lead to pain. The nature of the pain depends on the type of changes that occur in the breasts.

Lumps

Finally, whenever you find lumps or lumps in your breasts that are not or are related to your menstrual cycle, see your doctor immediately for a clear diagnosis and proper treatment. Although your healthcare provider can guess for sure whether a tumor is benign or malignant, imaging tests and sometimes a biopsy may be needed to be sure.

Left-sided breast cancer

In most cases, but certainly not always, breast cancer is painless in its early stages. However, there are exceptions to this rule, especially for cancers like inflammatory breast cancer.

Inflammatory breast cancer is an aggressive form of breast cancer that usually begins with pain, redness, and swelling of the breasts. Most people cannot feel an invisible lump, and cancer often looks like an infection. At first, the only symptom may be pain in one breast or the other.

Breast cancer in women is slightly more common on the left side than on the right, although it occurs equally in men on both sides. Although the chest pain is most likely caused by something other than breast cancer, about one in six women with breast cancer will experience chest pain during the 90-day period before diagnosis.

Causes not related to breasts

Get Medical Information / Emily Roberts

Sometimes when pain occurs, it is difficult to know exactly what hurts and where the pain is concentrated. When the pain hits you on the left side of your chest, you may think it is a pain in your left breast, but in reality, the pain may be under your left breast. Some causes of non-breast pain that feels like the chest include:

  • Chest wall pain
  • Esophageal causes
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Causes associated with the lungs.

Chest pain

Beneath the breast are muscles in the chest wall that can spasm during anxiety and stress, causing pain that can last only a few seconds to a few days. Pain in the chest wall resulting from inflammation of the cartilage between the breastbone and the ribs is called costochondritis .

Pain in the chest wall can cause a sharp stabbing pain. It is most common on the left side, but it can be on both sides. or, less frequently, just to the right . It ranges from mild to severe and is usually painful to the touch. The pain may spread to the back or abdomen and get worse with deep breathing. Pain can also cause pain in the arms.

If you pull on the pectoral muscle or injure the left side of the chest, it can cause pain.

Esophageal causes

Because the esophagus passes under the left breast, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can sometimes feel like pain in the left breast. A related condition, hiatal hernia , can cause similar symptoms.

Pain associated with the esophagus may look more like a burning pain and you may have associated symptoms, such as a bitter taste in your mouth, but not always. Other digestive system conditions, such as liver disease, can also sometimes cause pain like it comes from the chest.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia can cause pain anywhere in your body, and chest pain is not uncommon. Fibromyalgia pain occurs due to a nervous system disorder and can affect not only nerves, but also muscles, joints, and connective tissues. It can cause widespread, diffuse, or well-focused pain.

The pain may be dull, stabbing, or sharp, stabbing, burning, or tingling. Fibromyalgia pain is not related to swelling, redness, or warmth. Fibromyalgia pain is often aggravated by pressure on the area, a symptom called tactile allodynia .

Causes associated with the lungs.

Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation of the air sacs in the lungs. Because your lungs are in your chest and behind your chest, pneumonia can cause pain on the left side that can be mistaken for chest pain.

Pulmonary embolism is a blood clot, usually from the arms or legs, that breaks off and travels to the lungs. They can also cause chest pain. Other symptoms include coughing and sudden shortness of breath. Pulmonary embolism is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.

Skin-related causes

Sometimes women have pain that is felt under the skin or on the outside of the chest. It could be shingles, a condition caused by reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox ( varicella zoster virus ) years or decades after the initial infection.

The initial pain is usually accompanied by a painful rash. Because pain occurs first and the rash is a more recognizable symptom, shingles is difficult to recognize early on.

What should you do?

There are several causes of left chest pain, some of which are more serious than others. The only way to know for sure what is causing your pain is to see your doctor.

Whether your left breast pain is the result of a minor unpleasant condition or a more serious problem like breast cancer or even heart disease, it is important to get an answer to the question of what is causing your pain. Pain is our body's way of alerting us to a problem.

If you have consulted your doctor but still have not found a suitable explanation for your pain, please call again. If the pain persists, you may need to see another specialist.

Finally, keep in mind that even with an explanation, it is certainly not unusual for a person to have more than one process responsible for pain. For example, you might have a common breast condition, such as a breast cyst, along with a general costochondritis condition. In fact, it's not uncommon for people to get a cancer diagnosis after an exam that doesn't appear to be related to the problem.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your doctor if you have chest pain if:

  • You have a painful lump that does not go away after your period.
  • Your breasts are red or swollen
  • You have pus or discharge from the nipple
  • Lasts for more than two weeks
  • Stays in one place
  • It gets worse
  • Start imposing restrictions on your activities.

Frequently asked questions

Could my choice of underwear cause chest pain?

Yes. Make sure you wear a bra that is the correct size and maintains the size of your breasts. An improper fit can cause the breasts to sag and stretch, which in turn causes chest discomfort.

What organs are under the left breast?

Just below and just below your left breast, your internal organs include your heart, spleen, stomach, pancreas, and colon. The sternum and rib cage cover and protect these organs, so they are also under the chest.

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