Former Girls Aloud singer, Sarah Harding, shared details of her breast cancer diagnosis aged 39 with The Times. Sarah disclosed that she had a painful lump before seeing a GP, which later revealed she had breast cancer.

Devastatingly, Sarah lost her life to the disease in September 2021. Sarah’s story not only raised vital awareness of breast cancer but also raised questions about breast pain and its relationship with breast cancer.

Is Breast Soreness a Sign of Cancer?

This question is asked a lot, so we reached out to breast surgeon James Harvey for his thoughts. It probably won’t surprise you that there is a short and long answer.

Short Answer

The short answer is no – breast pain or soreness is not a worrying symptom and is very rarely a symptom of breast cancer.

Unfortunately, breast pain is very common, as is breast cancer, so many women can experience the two together, even though they are not directly linked. But as with many things in medicine, it’s not quite as straightforward as that. Which brings us to the long answer.

Long Answer 

Large studies have been undertaken to look at all women who attend breast clinics, the symptoms the patient came in with, and their final diagnosis. If we look at massive studies with tens of thousands of women, then there are only two presenting indicators that mean that you as a patient have an increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Firstly, women who find a lump have an increased risk of being diagnosed with cancer in the clinic. Finding an abnormal lump increases your risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer by three times more than a woman who comes to the clinic and does not complain of a lump.

Secondly, simply having a breast screening increases your chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer. This is because about 1 in 100 women will have cancer detected on a breast screen. The earlier that breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the outcome for the patient.

In these studies, breast pain did not increase the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. So, it is pretty clear that breast pain alone doesn’t put you at risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

But let’s look at breast pain differently…

Can women with breast pain be diagnosed with breast cancer?

Yes, they can. But they are no more likely to be diagnosed than if they had a breast screening or just came for a check-up. About 50% of the women who come to a breast clinic have breast pain, most of these women will have some form of examination and scan/mammogram. So, a proportion of these women will be diagnosed with breast cancer as they are essentially having a breast screening.

Most of the cancers found will be incidental, which means they are found in a separate part of the breast to where the pain is, or in the other breast. Very occasionally a cancerous lump can be painful, but these are rare occurrences. Therefore, if half the women coming to the clinic have breast pain, and 1 in 100 of these are diagnosed with breast cancer, this means there are a lot of women with the experience of having had breast pain and then being diagnosed with cancer. These are true experiences; these women did have breast pain and were diagnosed with cancer.

So Is Breast Pain Always Connected To Cancer?

In summary, breast pain is not a worrying symptom and is very rarely a symptom of cancer. Breast pain is very common, as is breast cancer, so many women can experience the two together even though they are not directly linked.

Should I Visit The GP If I’m Experiencing Frequent Breast Pain?

It is normal to experience breast pain, and for it to be persistent for weeks or months on end. If the pain continues for longer than six weeks or you are concerned about the pain, then you should contact your GP for an assessment or an examination.

The Importance of Breast Screening and Awareness

Breast screening is a breast health check, which is an x-ray-type test of your breasts that can spot cancers at an early stage when they’re too small to see or feel. Breast screening is offered to all women in the UK between the ages of 50 and 70. It is important that you look out for your invite and attend your screening.

The earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chance of beating it. Therefore, to reduce your risk of breast cancer, it is vitally important that you regularly check your breasts, work out what is ‘normal’ for you and keep an eye out for any signs and symptoms of breast cancer. If you notice anything unusual, the first step is to visit your GP.

Find our clear and visual instructions on how you can check your breasts.

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Breast cancer is a devastating disease, which is why we’re committed to freeing the world of it altogether. If you’d like to support the vital work that we do, there are a number of ways you can help, such as donating or fundraising. Together, we will prevent breast cancer for our future generations.

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About Prevent Breast Cancer

Prevent Breast Cancer is the only UK charity entirely dedicated to the prediction and prevention of breast cancer – we’re committed to freeing the world from the disease altogether. Unlike many cancer charities, we’re focused on preventing, rather than curing. Promoting early diagnosis, screening and lifestyle changes, we believe we can stop the problem before it starts. And being situated at the only breast cancer prevention centre in the UK, we’re right at the front-line in the fight against the disease. Join us today and help us create a future free from breast cancer. If you have any questions or concerns, email us today.

Published On: March 17th, 2021 /

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About Prevent Breast Cancer

Prevent Breast Cancer is the only UK charity entirely dedicated to the prediction and prevention of breast cancer – we’re committed to freeing the world from the disease altogether. Unlike many cancer charities, we’re focused on preventing, rather than curing. Promoting early diagnosis, screening and lifestyle changes, we believe we can stop the problem before it starts. And being situated at the only breast cancer prevention centre in the UK, we’re right at the front-line in the fight against the disease. Join us today and help us create a future free from breast cancer. If you have any questions or concerns, email us today.