This is a very commonly asked question, and indeed, breast pain is one of the most common reason why a patient comes to see me at Breast Friend Surgery & Wellness! I spend a long time talking to my patients and they are sometimes puzzled by why I ask such basic questions.
What do you mean by "prolonged"? And what do you mean by "breast tenderness"?
The reason I ask is:
Pain is very subjective, and as I shared before on another Q&A, I have seen a wide range of reactions to the same conditions. Therefore, I have always reassured my patients and advised them not to compare to what others have, but to compare to their own experiences - to know what is an acceptable normal range for themselves.
Having said that, doctors are taught what is considered "normal" for the majority of the population. Allow me to share with you:
Breast pain in itself, as an isolated symptom, is almost never due to breast cancer- more likely due to hormonal changes, muscle ache, or poor bra fit/support. But it is the most common symptom that bothers and alarms ladies that brings them to see a doctor. I would then do the necessary physical examination, and relevant imaging to complete the evaluation. A small percentage may happen to also have cancer - but it is not cancer that caused the pain.
For some ladies, they are very aware of breast discomfort in relation to their menstrual cycles. This is cyclical pain and is considered a normal variation.
In some ladies, it may be due to a skin infection, muscle aches from a new physical activity (my most memorable patient was a lady who started a new job as a durian seller, and she opens hundreds of durians a day!), or referred pain from another area (eg heart, bones of the spine/shoulder/ribcage).
Another common but unrecognised problem is simply that of poor bra fitting: when the bra is too tight, the pain is felt in the underbust, or over the shoulder straps. When the bra is too loose, the weight of the breasts will cause pulling pain in the upper outer parts of the breasts.
So, if you are experiencing unusual breast discomfort that is way different from anything you have experienced before- do not panic, but it's good to talk to a doctor to figure out what's wrong.
(If you are young and sexually active, you might want to do a home urine pregnancy test. Breast tenderness is one of the early symptoms of pregnancy!)
I hope this answer is helpful!