What Does It Mean When Your Left Breast Hurts

Boobs can be a mixed blessing. We spend our tween years longing for them to grow, but once they do, they bring a whole new set of problems (so to speak). For starters, we fear they're too small, too big, or just not the right shape, and, of course, they never look anything like the airbrushed ones we see in magazines. Plus, there's the whole ordeal with trying to find bras that fit right and look cute but don't cost a ridiculous amount of money. Eventually, however, we make peace with whatever nature has given us, just in time for everything to start heading south — quite literally, since age + gravity + boobs = saggage. After a certain point, only extensive cosmetic surgery is going to keep the "girls" perky.

Whatever our breasts may look like, they are a part of our bodies, so we need to take care of them. We do our self-exams, we get our mammograms, and we provide the support they need (even if the bras that do this aren't too pretty). We also pay attention when our breasts are trying to tell us something, and if what they're saying is "ouch!" it's important find out what's going on. If just one breast is causing you pain — specifically, the one on the left side — does this have any particular meaning? The fact that the pain is on the left may or may not be significant, but any breast pain needs to be investigated.

Sudden left breast pain could be signaling a heart attack

As the heart is located on the left side of the body, heart attacks and other cardiac events are often signaled by pain along that side of the body. This can be in the arm or the shoulder as well as the chest, and for women, WebMD says that left breast pain can also be a symptom. While breast pain can be signaling many different conditions, and a heart attack isn't the most likely cause of such pain, you should nevertheless be on the lookout for any other possible symptoms you're experiencing that may point toward a heart attack.

Chest pain, pressure, and shortness of breath are some of the best-known heart attack symptoms, and yet it turns out they are more likely to be experienced by men. Women's heart attack symptoms tend to be less typical, with some studies showing that nearly half of all women feel no acute chest pain. Instead, the top signs a woman may be experiencing a heart attack include nausea, fatigue, and a feeling of weakness as well as pain on the left side of the body including the breast area.

The left breast is slightly more susceptible to cancer

One of the really scary things about breast cancer is that, as VeryWellFit tells us, it tends to be fairly painless in its early stages. That is why we rely on self-exams and mammograms to give us an early warning if there's any cause for concern. Inflammatory breast cancer, however, is different in that it does tend to manifest itself from the outset with redness, swelling, and pain. Unlike other breast cancers, though, there may be no lump, so the breast pain tends to be the most readily apparent sign of this type of cancer.

Breast cancer in women does tend to occur more often on the left side, although in men it occurs equally on both sides of the body. While breast cancer, again, isn't the most likely cause of breast pain, it is something you'll want to rule out right away if your left breast is hurting. About 15% of all women who are diagnosed with breast cancer do experience some breast pain in the 90 days before the cancer is detected, so unless you are able to pinpoint another likely cause for the discomfort you're feeling, you might want to get checked out by a doctor.

Injuries, infections, and hormonal issues can affect either or both breasts

While we've dealt with the worst case scenarios first, it's most likely that any breast pain you're feeling is caused by something far less serious. If you're expecting your period, it could just be the typical pain and swelling caused by hormonal changes. While this can affect both breasts, VeryWell Health says that it can also be felt in just one breast at a time. Other factors that might affect your hormones and cause left breast pain include being on contraceptive pills, receiving infertility treatments, or undergoing hormone replacement therapy.

Other frequent causes of breast pain include clogged or infected milk ducts, benign breast cysts, and abscesses that may form under the nipple. While none of these conditions are particularly serious, they can be quite painful and you may need prescription antibiotics to clear them up. If your breasts have been injured in any way or you've recently undergone breast surgery, these, too, are likely to lead to breast pain. It's also possible that your pain may be caused by a condition unrelated to your breasts. As the esophagus passes behind the left breast, both gastroesophageal reflux disease and hiatal hernias can manifest as left breast pain, while pneumonia may cause left-side lung pain that can easily be mistaken for breast pain.

What to do about your left breast pain

If you are pretty sure you know the cause of your left breast pain and you know it's nothing serious — say, for example, you're experiencing some typical monthly bloating — then you're probably safe to just wait it out with nothing more than a few ibuprofen or some herbal tea. If the pain is sudden and acute, however, you're better off seeking medical attention right away, Even if the pain is caused by a relatively minor infection, you'll still need a diagnosis and most likely a prescription for the medicine necessary to clear it up.

If you're on the fence as to whether your breast pain does or does not require a trip to the doctor, Aaptiv offers the following guidelines: If the pain is accompanied by any fever, redness, swelling, or discharge, or you feel a lump, or if your nipples or breast skin appear different, then get yourself to a doctor right away. You've only got two boobs, after all, so it's better to keep them safe than run the risk of losing them (or your life).