Womens health

Shooting pain in breast: Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

Have you ever felt a shooting pain in breast?  It is understandable that you are worried. All the primary organs of the body like heart, lungs, and ribs are located there.  You evidently would have been concerned thinking it is a symptom of breast cancer!

Fret not! Sharp pain in the breast is not always an indicator of cancer. There are a plethora of reasons that cause a Shooting Pain in Breast area.

Breast Pain or Mastalgia:

shooting pain in breast
Shooting pain in breast
Image source: breastcancercare.org.uk

Breast pain or Mastalgia is a common phenomenon among women.  It can be in the form of a minor ache or could be a significant stabbing sensation.

Shooting pain in breast occurs especially after heavy or long hours of work.  You experience it during the menstrual cycle.

5 categories of causes for shooting Pain in Breast:

We can divide the causes roughly into five categories.  The groups again have a big list of reasons for the Shooting Pain in Breast:

  1. Related to the menstrual cycle:
A. During menstrual cycle:

During the menstrual cycle, most women experience swelling of breast tissue, which is quite reasonable.  It is painful but harmless.  The period can be from 3 to 7 days.

The hormones like estrogen and progesterone are very active during this period.  They increase fluid content in breasts, stretch nerves and expand tissues causing the swelling.    Now you know why you experienced that severe nerve pain in breast!

Some have this problem at the before the periods and others at the end.  And hence, this type of sudden sharp pain ebbs away after periods.

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Shooting pain also occurs during pregnancy or menopause. The reason again is the increase and decrease in hormone discharges.

B. Non-menstrual cycle:

Sometimes, shooting Pain in breast occurs outside the menstrual cycle.  You might experience it continuously or unpredictably. This could also affect you during menopause.  The reasons for non-cyclical breast pain are:

  • Inflamed breast tissues: Reason for sharp pain in nipple;
  • Breast abscesses: It is a collection of pus under the skin of your breast.  It is a result of a bacterial infection and seen mostly in women aged 15 to 45;
  • Breast cancer and tumour: Shooting pain in breast could be due to a cancerous growth in the breast region and requires immediate Doctor’s attention;
  • Cysts: Cysts in breasts look like lumps but are harmless sacs filled with fluid but can cause pain;
  • Post breast surgeries: Pain after surgeries performed on the breast ;
  • Issues with milk ducts and tissues around it;
  • Mastectomy: Mastectomy is an operation performed for removing malfunctioning breast;
  • Growth in fibroadenomas: Fibroadenomas is a benign(harmless) condition not an indicator of concern. It occurs in girls who have just attained puberty.
2. Muscle and bone stress around breasts:

Shooting pain in the breasts could be due to problems in the bones and muscles around it.

  • Costochondritis is an inflammation of the chest wall made of cartilage.  This cartilage joins upper ribs and the breastbone.  This problem crops up when you are using your arms more than usual.
  • Injuries and rib fractures can also cause breast pain because they are located near to each other.
  • Arthritis in joints stretch breast tissues
  • Back pain neck pain, spondylosis, disc prolapse  have strain nerve endings of Breasts
  • Inflammation of soft tissue in the chest area
  • Straining of Pectorals muscle that is situated around the breast through severe physical activity
  • Heart problems can also cause Shooting pain in Breast.
3. Respiratory problems:

Respiratory problems can also cause Breast pain due to their proximity to the breasts.  Here are a few reasons that induce pain in the area:

  • Inflammation of airways – Bronchitis,
  • A cough, cold flu
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Fever
4. Other causes:

These issues also cause shooting pain in breast

  • Large breasts: Massive breasts stretch tissues and cause pain in the breasts, shoulder and back.
  • Hormone replacement
  • Oral contraceptive pills
5. Lifestyle Causes:

Your lifestyle can also be a cause for sudden sharp pain in breast

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Obesity and sudden increase in body weight cause various issues, and breast pain is one of them.

Ill-fitting bras and tight dresses:

Chafing from clothes like bras and tight dresses cause serious injury to the breast nipple. This creates an opening for infecting bacteria.

Diagnosis of Shooting Pain in Breast:

Diagnosis of Breast Pain is vital.  While this pain may be harmless and ease away in few days; sometimes it could be a harbinger of severe health ailments.

Pain due to lumps in breast could denote cancer! It could also mean bone and muscle problems which you need to address at the earliest.  Respiratory issues can also cause Sharp twinges in breast.

Diagnosis of shooting pain in breast is made through following methods


Self-examination goes a long way in detecting earlier – check for irregular areas, lumps or thickness in particular region of the breast.

If you find something irregular or amiss it is high-time you see a specialist.

2. Notes on menstrual cycles and duration of shooting pain in breast:

Keep regular records on menstrual cycles and see if there is any difference between two periods you recently experienced.  You can find out if there are significant changes that may have a bearing on your breast pain.

3. Non cyclical shooting pain in breast:

Non-cyclical breast pain is a cause for concern as it is not normal.  Check for regularity of occurrence and inform your doctor all the details.

4. Clinical examination of breast:

Doctors will clinically examine your breasts for lumps, cysts or abnormalities.   They will also determine if the pain originates from your breast or chest wall.

He/she will ask you for the history and severity of pain.  Some doctors need you to fill a breast pain chart for information.

5. Doctors seek details of injuries, fever, and infection:

To narrow down to the possibilities, they will ask for your medical history.  They need to know if you suffered from injuries, fever or Bacterial/viral infection recently.

6. Scanning and tests:

If after physical examination they find something amiss or want further clarification they may advise the following tests:

  • Mammography
  • Breast biopsy
  • Ultrasound

These tests may determine if you have breast cancer or not.

Treatment for Shooting Pain in Breast:

Once the cause is analysed the following may be advised

1. The dosage of contraceptive tablets may be adjusted:

In case your pain started because of taking contraceptive pills, the doctors will adjust the dosage or change the brand.  He may stop it all together, which means you need to seek other methods of contraception.

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2. Prescription drugs:

Some doctors can suggest Ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory medications so that pain is reduced.

  • They may sometimes give hormone-suppressing drugs such as Danazol and Tamoxifen to control the two active hormones.  These medicines may have side effects too.
  • Painkillers are prescribed for muscle/bone problems.  People diagnosed with breast cancer are asked to see a specialist at once.
  • Sometimes chest wall problems are responsible for shooting pain in breast.  Doctors prescribe Paracetamol and anti-inflammatory drugs for relief.  They will also advise rest and sudden movements can aggravate pain.
3. Medicines for respiratory infections may be given:

In case the breast pain is due to respiratory infections, then antibacterial and antiviral medicines are prescribed.  Take extra care during winters when there is a nip in the air causing havoc on your respiratory system.

If you are allergic, you will be prone to ENT problems, so precaution is the best solution for avoiding reoccurrence of this problem.

4. Surgery:

In rare cases like breast reduction surgery or mastectomy are conducted.   In fact, the pain is diagnosed as cancer; necessary steps are taken to rectify it through surgery or other means.

5. What you can do to ease shooting Pain in Breast:

Shooting pain in the breast can make you wary and distressed.  You also feel frustration and helplessness along with pain. Usually, the pain goes away, but it is best if you visit a Specialist who can understand the cause of pain and give a solution according.  The following may sometimes prevent this trauma

A. Keep a tab on your weight:

Weight issues have a direct bearing on health.  Overweight cause severe problems and Sharp pain in breast are one of them.

Eating fibre rich, low-fat diet will maintain weight.  Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, reducing intake of caffeine and alcohol and regular exercise go a long way in keeping your body in good shape.

Exercise or do yoga and other non-severe physical activities to reduce the trauma of muscles and bones.

B. Keep notes of the menstrual cycle:

Women should always keep records of their menstrual cycles.  Keep notes of the Dates, menstrual flow and other pains and aches that you experience at the start and end of the period.

Doctors usually refer to these to zero-in on the correct cause of Shooting Pain in Breasts.

C. Wearing correct clothing:

Wearing supportive clothing can also help you prevent breast pain.

  • Wearing a supportive bra,
  • Avoiding tight-fitting clothes,
  • Wearing clothes as per the season, time and activity.


Know one thing.  Shooting pain in breast is not always an indicator of breast cancer.  If you feel such a pain, analyse for a few seconds.  If you guess the reason, act accordingly.

If it is persistent or you feel that the pain is due to an abnormal cause take a doctor’s appointment at the earliest.

Reference articles:
  1. https://www.webmd.com/women/qa/what-is-breast-pain-and-how-harmful-is-it
  2. https://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/information-support/have-i-got-breast-cancer/benign-breast-conditions/breast-pain
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/breast-cancer/
  4. https://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/information-support/have-i-got-breast-cancer/benign-breast-conditions/breast-pain/chest-wall-pain
  5. http://www.breastscreen.health.wa.gov.au/Breast-health/Breast-pain
  6. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/breast-pain-not-just-a-premenopausal-complaint

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