Dr. Jennifer McAlister has over a decade of experience as a board-certified surgeon, specializing in breast surgery. As the only fellowship trained breast surgeon in Western North Carolina, Dr. McAlister evaluates and manages patients with benign breast conditions (breast pain, lumps and cysts), and those with breast cancer. Her specialized education, training and experience with the breast give her in-depth knowledge about complex diseases. She believes in treating each patient as an individual, and educating and empowering them to make the best health care decisions.
What Causes Breast Pain?
Breast pain is any discomfort, tenderness, or pain in the breast or underarm region, and it may occur for a number of reasons. Although many women with pain in one or both breasts may be concerned that it is breast cancer, breast pain is NOT commonly a symptom of cancer.
There are a number of harmless causes for breast pain and tenderness that may primarily be related to changes in hormone levels. These can include:
- Puberty in girls and sometimes for boys, too
- Menstruation and premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Pregnancy - more often during the first trimester
- Days following childbirth as milk comes in Breastfeeding Mastitis, which is caused by a milk duct that is not properly draining and becomes infected, should be treated. It has no correlation with cancer, but it can become a serious infection if left untreated.
Fibrocystic Breast Tissue
Some women have lumpy breast tissue called fibrocystic breasts, which may be more painful during certain times of the month. Fibrocystic breasts are not necessarily linked to cancer, and the lumps are fluid filled cysts rather than a mass of cells. Fibrocystic breast changes are also a common cause of breast pain. Fibrocystic breast tissue contains lumps that tend to be more tender just before your menstrual period.
If you experience pain along with any of the following symptoms, you should contact your physician:
- Bloody or clear discharge from your nipple
- A new lump with the onset of the pain; lump does not go away after your menstrual period
- Persistent, unexplained breast pain
- Signs of a breast infection, including local redness, pus, or fever
The 3D mammography equipment used at Pardee is the only equipment that is FDA approved as superior to standard 2D mammography. Multiple clinical studies show 3D mammography is beneficial for all women, no matter your breast type or density. 3D mammography detects 41 percent more invasive breast cancers and reduces false positives by up to 40 percent. This means one simple thing: more accuracy and less anxiety.
Most major insurers cover the exam. Talk to your physician about having a 3D mammogram at your next mammography screening.
Pardee UNC Health Care is one of only two facilities in Western North Carolina to offer 3D-guided biopsy, which is a minimally invasive procedure that uses x-ray imaging techniques to gather tissue samples from a breast abnormality. This biopsy technique samples lesions which cannot be detected with the standard 2D digital mammography, and can only be identified with 3D mammography. Patients cannot tell a difference when this latest technique is being used; however, 3D-guided biopsy is the highest level technology available today for sampling lesions in the breast, which may be an indication of breast cancer, and allows for an easier, more streamlined procedure that takes less time and uses less radiation.
This investment in 3D technology demonstrates our commitment to being on the leading edge and to providing the very best care to our patients and to our community.
Learn more about breast pain
Learn more about breast health services offered at Pardee