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What are the Most Common Causes of Underarm Breast Pain?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are many possible causes of underarm breast pain, including cysts, breast cancer, and infection. In some cases, pain may develop in relation to a woman’s menstrual cycle or due to clogged milk ducts in a woman who has given birth to a child. Sometimes, pregnant women may also experience tenderness and swelling under the arms as a normal pregnancy symptom. A rash, friction from clothing that rubs the skin, and even something as simple as an overly tight bra may cause this problem as well.

One of the most common causes of breast pain under the arm is some sort of lump. A lump that develops in this area is an abnormal growth that may be hard, rubbery, immobile, or mobile. In some cases, it may be a benign cyst or other type of non-cancerous growth, but in others, underarm breast pain may be a symptom of a cancerous breast lump.

Sometimes, hormonal or physical changes in a woman’s body can cause underarm breast pain. For example, some women experience breast tenderness, including in the underarm region, during certain parts of their menstrual cycles. In such a case, a woman’s pain may be caused by changes in the levels of progesterone and estrogen in her body. When breast pain is related to a woman’s menstrual cycle, it is often referred to as cyclic breast pain.

In some cases, a woman may experience breast pain because of pregnancy. As with menstruation, pregnancy is marked by changes in the levels of progesterone and estrogen in a woman’s body. The pain or tenderness a woman may feel in her underarm area may develop as a result of these hormonal changes. Additionally, most women experience breast growth during pregnancy, and this may be accompanied by pain and tenderness as well. Often, the pain is at its worst during the first trimester.

Underarm breast tenderness may also develop as a sign that something is wrong. Besides cancer, other issues such as infection, clogged milk ducts, and skin rashes may cause pain in this area. A woman may develop pain in the underarm as a result of friction caused by her clothing or even by a very tight bra. Additionally, trauma or injury to the breast tissue may cause pain under the arm.

TheHealthBoard is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a TheHealthBoard writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By anon956262 — On Jun 12, 2014

@ light0sec33: I think you are right. You are not the only one. It happens to me also. And I have some sort breast pain at the sides bilaterally below the arms. I think it is related to the muscle that holds the breast. With every adrenaline rush there is more and sudden blood rushing but since this area of muscle is already under trauma or fatigue is not able to withhold the sudden change in motion which is with muscle and that is why it feels so.

By anon931066 — On Feb 06, 2014

@lighth0se33 and @anon328608: I have a similar experience in adrenaline rushes, but the pain shoots straight through the center of my breasts out to the nipples. I don't know why this happens, and no one else seems to understand either.

By anon328608 — On Apr 04, 2013

I have the same feeling as lighth0se33! I thought I was crazy so it's good to hear someone has the same symptoms. I've had an ultrasound done on my armpit which was totally normal and no sign of lumps. Any luck figuring out what it may be?

By anon313734 — On Jan 14, 2013

I have underarm and breast pain, am 38 years old, and had a full hysterectomy five years ago. I am starting to worry. My mom had breast cancer four years ago.

By anon312263 — On Jan 06, 2013

I had this pain for years, and even had an early mammogram, I was so convinced it was something sinister. My doctor told me to get a different bra, but the pain was still there. Finally, my neighbor told me to try natural deodorant. I thought, why not? And it worked! No more pain, and it's been four months.

The deodorant doesn't work as well as regular, but it's so worth it.

By clintflint — On Dec 15, 2012

@indigomoth - The problem is for some women cysts form fairly regularly. No matter how much I wash or how well fitted my bra is, I can't seem to get rid of them (I suspect because I have a hormone condition).

I used to panic with every one, but you know, even a lump in the breast isn't likely to actually be cancer. And there is a difference in what a cyst and a lump feel like. The cyst has smooth edges.

I make sure I get a formal check for cancer every year and leave it at that. They don't grow overnight, so that should be enough.

By indigomoth — On Dec 15, 2012

@OeKc05 - Do be careful, because most women don't realize how far into the armpit breast tissue actually goes. A lump in your armpit, which you might dismiss as a cyst might actually be breast cancer.

This isn't to panic you at all, but it's better women are aware of what can go wrong and how their bodies work.

By JackWhack — On Aug 08, 2012

@OeKc05 – I think that you are probably safe, unless you have a breast lump and pain at the same time. Either way, it's best to see a doctor for an exam every year, especially when you have a history of breast cancer in your family.

So, you've had pain from a pulled muscle in that region, too? That is one of the most painful spots to have a pulled muscle. I know, because I injure myself this way more often than I'm proud to admit.

Sometimes, I am in a hurry and trying to multitask, so I put my seatbelt on with one hand. Every single time that I do this, I pull the muscle that runs from my underarm to my breast. The pain actually burns, and it is so intense that I can't do anything for several minutes until it subsides.

By OeKc05 — On Aug 08, 2012

Every time I get a pain in the breast, I get afraid that I might have cancer. My grandmother died of breast cancer, and so did her mother. Just knowing that it runs in the family makes me paranoid.

Even when the pain is closer to my underarm than my breast, I get worried. Usually, the pain has just been from a pulled muscle. However, I can't help but think of what might happen to me one day because of my family history.

By wavy58 — On Aug 08, 2012

Pain in the side of the breast and underarm pain are closely linked for me. Whenever one area hurts, so does the other.

I have had swollen lymph nodes from bacterial infections before, and this made the underarm area swell. The tenderness extended outward to the front a little, so the boundary lines were blurry.

I once had a sinus infection that caused my lymph nodes to swell. Taking antibiotics cleared it up and made the swelling go down.

By lighth0se33 — On Aug 07, 2012

I get a weird shooting underarm and breast pain whenever I have a quick adrenaline rush. Generally, it happens when I get scared because of sudden danger.

Several times, I have been driving and either someone has pulled out in front of me or I have seen someone merging over into my lane. Every time that I sense danger, I get a sharp pain that shoots through my underarm toward my breast.

I have a feeling that this is related to an adrenaline rush, but I'm not sure why it happens. Every person whom I have told this to has just looked at me like I'm weird. Apparently, it's not that common.

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison


Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a TheHealthBoard writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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