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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Breast Pain
October 2000

Q. Breast cancer runs in my family. Both my mother and 45-year-old sister have had breast cancer. I am 38 years old and for the past couple of months I have been experiencing pain in my right nipple. It is a shooting pain and the nipple will become hard and painful even with a light touch such as rubbing against my bra or clothing. It will last for several minutes then subside, but returns frequently throughout the day. Is this anything to be concerned about?

A. There is indeed an increased risk of breast cancer among family members of breast cancer patients. Although the majority of cases occur in women older than 50, approximately 25% of cases occur in younger women. Monthly self-exam and mammograms at an appropriate age are good screening methods, though some tumors will be missed. Approximately 200,000 new cases will be diagnosed in the U.S this year.

You should see your doctor promptly for an exam. The pain described may not indicate anything serious, but it should be investigated.






MEDICAL REFERENCES (usually available through the library of your local hospital):

Martin AM, Weber BL. Genetic and hormonal risk factors in breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2000 Jul 19;92(14):1126-35.

Vogel VG. Breast cancer prevention: a review of current evidence. CA Cancer J Clin. 2000 May-Jun;50(3):156-70.

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