New Breast Pain App from National Cancer Control Programme

4 July 2013

Dr Susan O'Reilly, Director of the National Cancer Control Programme launched a NCCP Breast Pain App to help women understand the nature of their breast pain in consultation with their GP.

Breast pain (mastalgia) is a common complaint. It affects most women at some time in their life. Naturally, breast pain can cause women to worry but breast pain, on its own, is not usually a symptom of cancer. The level of breast pain is different for each woman. It can range from mild discomfort to severe - enough to affect their quality of life.

The App describes simple measures a woman can take to manage this pain and provides a diary that can be filled in daily, or as appropriate, to record the level and type of pain. In this way the pattern of the pain can be graphically viewed and understood.

The App complements the NCCP Breast Pain Booklet and manual diary which are routinely given to any woman when she presents at her GP surgery and has been told - following a clinical examination - that there are no breast concerns other than the pain she has been experiencing. This new facility empowers women to capture and record their pain experience over a three month time span and establish any predictable patterns that emerge. If appropriate, the woman can return to her GP after completing the diary.

The lifetime risk for women in Ireland developing breast cancer is one in ten. Nine in ten women do not develop breast cancer.

There are two main types of breast pain:

Cyclical
This is the most common type of breast pain. It usually occurs a few days before the period and it goes away when the period begins. It is due to monthly normal changes in hormones. This is more common in younger women. It tends to occur in both breasts and women describe it as pain and tenderness that extends into the armpit. For the majority no treatment is required and it resolves with the onset of menopause. 

Non-cyclical
This is not related to the period and it is most common among women in their forties to fifties. It can occur in one breast. It can be due to an injury or to muscle / joint pain in the chest wall. Sometimes no cause for this type of pain is found. 

The App describes simple measures a woman can take to manage her breast pain including taking exercise, being a healthy weight, reducing caffeine intake before the period, wearing a good fitting bra and taking simple analgesia (pain relief medication) when the pain is worst. Sometimes evening primrose oil can help. It explains to women how to be 'breast aware' and also highlights the other types of breast problems that do require urgent medical attention. 

The App can be downloaded by:

  • Scanning the QR code that is printed on Breast Pain Booklet
  • Visiting the Apple / Android market and search for 'NCCP Breast Pain App'