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The most common causes of pain in one breast are a pulled muscle, cyst, or plugged duct due to breastfeeding. A tumor, either benign or cancerous, is also a common cause of pain in one breast rather than both. How likely these potential causes are often depends on the woman’s age, if she is breastfeeding, or if she has been exercising heavily or otherwise participating in a strenuous activity that might pull a muscle. All of these causes have some sort of treatment, if not an outright cure. In many cases, the pain might not go away without treatment prescribed by a health professional, so seeing a doctor as soon as possible is usually highly recommended.
A pulled muscle near the chest, caused by playing sports, lifting heavy objects, or similar activities, can make the breast itself feel as if it is hurting. The pain is normally most severe during deliberate movements, but it can also be painful when breathing. It may make finding a comfortable sleeping position difficult. Treatment primarily involves time because there is no quick cure for a pulled muscle. An over-the-counter pain medication can sometimes provide relief, along with applying moist heat.
Sometimes a fluid-filled cyst develops and causes pain in one breast. Fluid-filled cysts are not believed to be an indicator of cancer risk, as contrasted with a solid cyst. Breast cysts are fairly common and often do not require any sort of treatment as long as they are fluid-filled and not solid. Fluid-filled cysts can be drained if they are causing enough discomfort to warrant it, but are typically not drained otherwise. The detection of a breast cyst often requires a mammogram or other technology-assisted tests, as they are often not detected by hand examinations unless they are particularly large.
Sometimes a woman who is breastfeeding will develop a plugged duct. This happens when milk is not properly draining and can lead to swelling and pain. A plugged duct can lead to symptoms reminiscent of the flu, as well as unique symptoms such as pus and bleeding from the nipple, if it becomes infected.
Lastly, a tumor can develop and eventually cause pain in one breast. These tumors are not necessarily cancerous. In fact, the vast majority of breast cancer lumps are not painful. A painful tumor in the breast can be benign, meaning it is harmless other than the pain.
I've pulled a muscle close to the breast and it can be incredibly painful. I found the best thing to do was to ice it, and keep it as still as possible, because trying to move around normally was making it worse.
Anti-inflammatories can also help, but you really want to make sure you aren't going to be lulled into thinking it's OK to ignore the pain, otherwise it will continue for a lot longer than it might otherwise.
I develop cysts in my breasts all the time. They are annoying, but not really a problem. I used to panic and think they might be cancer, but my doctor explained that some women are just more prone to them than others.
It's probably partly because of my breast size, it means they rub more against clothing and so the skin is more vulnerable to this kind of thing. Although, sometimes they just happen.
It is important to know the difference between a cyst and a lump though. Lumps feel rough, almost kind of spiky, whereas a cyst will be smooth. They may or may not cause breast pain.