Fibromyalgia can cause breast pain, and so can breast cancer. Is there a difference in the way a woman would feel these different sources of pain?

Though pain in a breast from cancer isn’t a hallmark or common feature of this disease, it does happen.

“Since pain is always a symptom, not a diagnosis, and fibromyalgia is a constellation of symptoms including painful trigger points, fatigue and activity intolerance that make up a diagnosis of exclusion — that is, after other organic causes of pain have been ruled out — you’d never want to assume breast pain or a ‘trigger point’ that could be mistaken for a breast lump is a benign finding that could be part of a diagnosis of fibromyalgia,” explains Melissa Franckowiak, MD, an anesthesiologist in Lockport, NY, who treats people with fibromyalgia.

“Pain of fibromyalgia can be complex and present in any number of areas, including around the musculature of the breast,” continues Dr. Franckowiak.

“However, any lump or new finding needs to be properly examined by a physician and evaluated with modalities including mammography, MRI or sometimes a biopsy to know for sure.

“Typically, breast cancer presents with painless lumps, but patients who have had surgery on their breast to remove a breast lump or cancer, can present with involvement of the nerves that innervate the area.

“Most of the cutaneous sensation of the breast is supplied by the T2-5 intercostal nerves.

“The brachial plexus is a group of nerves deep in the armpit that supply the lateral and medial pectoral, throraco-dorsal and long thoracic nerves.

“The nerves provide myofascial sensation to the chest wall musculature and can be a source of myofascial pain after mastectomy.

“This could be confused with fibromyalgia pain, and without a proper workup by a physician, neither can be definitively ruled in or ruled out based on pain symptoms.”

Don’t ever assume “it’s just the fibro” when pain starts kicking up in a breast, even if it’s both of them in the exact same spot. You should report this to your gynecologist, even if it turns out to be transient.

Dr. Franckowiak is the inventor of two patented medical devices and the CEO of Pneumaglide, providing airway solutions to the surgical services and emergency medical services communities. A fiction writer under the name of Melissa Crickard, she is the author of “The Labrador Response” and “Another Five Patients,” available on Amazon.