Each breast contains an extensive system of glandular tissue, surrounded by fatty tissue, blood vessels, lymph nodes, connective tissue and nerves. Diseases affecting the breast can cause inflammation, breast irritation and tissue damage. This tissue damage can lead to persistent pain and a burning sensation within the breast. Some of these diseases may be life-threatening. See your doctor for an accurate diagnosis if you have breast pain.
One possible cause of a burning sensation in the breast is mastitis -- breast infection. These infections most commonly occur in women who are breastfeeding -- infant suckling can damage the skin around the nipple, allowing a point of entry for bacteria. Women with breast infection often experience a constant burning sensation which increases during breastfeeding. This burning sensation is often accompanied by redness and swelling of the affected breast, pain when the breast is touched and a general fever due to the infection. Most breast infections are easily controlled with antibiotics, and the symptoms of the infection managed with pain medication.
Another possible cause of a burning sensation in the breast is peripheral nerve damage, called neuropathy. Women may develop neuropathy due to a number of disorders, such as poorly controlled diabetes, or due to medications, such as cancer chemotherapy. It may also occur after breast cancer surgery. In some cases, nerve damage leads to abnormal signaling from pain-sensing nerves, which causes a burning pain. As a result, women with peripheral neuropathy in the breast experience a burning, painful sensation, which may be accompanied by numbness and tingling in the breast. Although nerve damage may be permanent, symptoms may improve with medication or lifestyle changes.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer
A serious possible cause of a burning sensation in the breast is inflammatory breast cancer. This relatively rare form of cancer accounts for 1 to 6 percent of breast cancers in the US. People with inflammatory breast cancer develop a swelling of the affected breast as cancerous growth obstructs the lymph vessels causing a buildup of lymph fluid in the breast. In addition, the affected breast becomes red and inflamed, and affected people may experience a burning or itching sensation. Inflammatory breast cancer can progress rapidly, with a poor prognosis.
Is This an Emergency?
- American Journal of Epidemiology: Lactation Mastitis -- Occurrence and Medical Management among 946 Breastfeeding Women in the United States
- Pain: Neuropathic Pain Following Breast Cancer Surgery -- Proposed Classiﬁcation and Research Update
- The Oncologist: Inflammatory Breast Cancer -- What We Know and What We Need to Learn