Sharp Pain in Left Breast When Breathing—Possible Causes

Sharp Pain in Left Breast When Breathing—Possible Causes

Breast pain is a common occurrence in women, especially during the onset of her monthly cycle along with other premenstrual syndrome symptoms. It is important to know the different kinds of pain you feel to be able to determine the origin and cause of the pain. Breast pain can be described as tenderness, soreness, or sharp pain in the left breast when breathing. The pain can be sudden, or constant and may occur during movement.

With the different types and range of pain you can feel, it is best to make sure if the pain comes from the breast tissue and not from the heart.


Is It Your Breast or Your Heart?

Women experience very vague early symptoms of heart attack and have a tendency to overlook such signs and mistake it for something else because the pain can be mild and feel more like pain from breast tissue. It is vital to familiarize yourself with these  early signs and symptoms of a heart attack in women:

  1. Chest pain/pressure
  2. Feeling lightheaded/fainting
  3. Jaw pain, pain, and heaviness in the neck
  4. Pain or numbness in the left arm
  5. Nausea
  6. Shortness of breath
  7. Sweating (cold sweat/ sudden profuse sweating )
  8. The feeling of impending doom/ panic

Actual pain from the breast can be mild to severe. If you experience the pain according to the following time frames your pain could be actual breast-related pain :

  1. A few days each month prior to getting your monthly period with pain, tenderness or heaviness in both breasts
  2. More than a week every month before your period and throughout your menstrual cycle. With pain in both breasts
  3. Pain in either breast all through the month and not related to your monthly period.

Some postmenopausal women do experience breast pain however, this is more observed in women in the early stages of menopause.

Mastalgia or breast pain can be an early warning sign of a noncancerous breast condition but it is rarely an indication of possible breast cancer.  All the same, any type of breast pain that can’t be explained and that persists even after a couple of menstrual cycles should be brought to the attention of your doctor.


General Characteristics of Breast Pain

Cyclic Breast Pain

  1. Related to monthly periods
  2. Affects women in their 20’s and 30’s
  3. Affects women in their 40’s leading up to menopause
  4. Pain is dull aching and/or heavy
  5. Intensified pain 2 weeks prior to starting of menses and subsides after
  6. Swelling, engorged, lumpy breasts
  7. Affects both breasts

Non-cyclic Breast pain

  1. Not related to monthly periods
  2. Affects women after menopause
  3. Soreness, Tight burning pain
  4. Pain may be constant or periodic
  5. Usually affects one breast, localized spot
  6. Causes of Left Breast Pain:
  7. Breast related


Causes of Sharp Pain in Left Breast When Breathing

Breast Area


Any injury to your breast can bring about bruising and aching until such time the traumatized breast tissues have healed.  There may be a possibility of breast tissue scarring upon healing in the form of fat necrosis and this can also cause pain. Fat necrosis is a hard lump that can make it challenging to distinguish it from cancerous tissue growth.

Milk Duct infections

An abscess can develop under the nipple or areola when the milk ducts get clogged. This results in an infection called mastitis.  Cysts or fibroadenomas can also develop in your milk ducts or its connective tissues that can cause aches and pains. It is important to consult your doctor if you have mastitis as you may need to take a course of antibiotics to clear up the infection.

Breast Surgery

Any type of surgery performed on the breast might cause sharp pain in left breast when breathing. The pain may occur as the cuts and incisions heal and form scar tissue. Most scar tissues will come with periodic pain even long after you have had the surgery.


Lumps in the breast should never be ignored or taken lightly. Always have your breasts checked for lumps whether these are related to your monthly cycles. It is best to get a proper diagnosis, along with imaging tests as well as a biopsy to preempt breast cancer.


When hormones start to wreak havoc on the body during a menstrual cycle, breast tenderness and engorgement ensue. This applies the same when a woman is taking oral contraceptive pills or hormone replacement therapy. Most often, the pain is felt on both breasts. Hypothyroidism is also linked to benign breast issues and breast pain.


Chest wall muscles/Angina

Just beneath the breasts are chest wall muscles that get into periods of spasms when you are stressed. This can last for days. Tense chest wall muscles cause pain on either side.


An infection or inflammation of the pericardium or the heart’s protective membrane. A sharp stabbing pain under the left breast that intensifies as you breathe or when you are lying down. This may be accompanied by shoulder pain, shortness of breath, and feeling hot and faint.

If you are experiencing pain on either side of your breast/ chest, it is better to play safe and call for an immediate appointment with your doctor. A typical heart attack will cause a tight squeezing pain or pressure on the left side to the center of the chest most often starting with very vague accompanying symptoms.

Pulmonary Emboli

A blood clot in your leg that breaks off and reaches your lungs can cause pain that feels like it is coming from your breast.

Digestive Issues

Esophageal causes

The esophagus can be found running below your left breast. A woman with gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD usually feels pain on her left breast that may be described as a burning pain.


Acute / Chronic pancreatitis can bring about sudden severe pain under the left breast up to the middle part of the abdomen and even all the way to the back.

Enlarged Spleen

When the spleen is enlarged or if it bursts due to an injury — it usually causes pain under the left breast and the ribs especially when touched.

Respiratory Issues


A bout with pneumonia can cause pain in your left breast as well due to the location of the lungs underneath the breasts.


Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage that is located between your breastbone and ribs. This can also bring about breast pain on either side.

Mom Pamper

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