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Breast infections are quite uncommon. But when they do occur, they cause anxiety to women who experience them.

Lactational mastitis  

Most common. It occurs when breastfeeding. It happens rarely because milk is always flowing through the ducts and flushing bacteria out.

However, sometimes when a duct gets blocked up with thick milk bacteria become trapped in the breast, they feed on the milk, and suddenly there is an inflamed, reddened, hot, and very painful breast . Usually this affects one area of one breast where the duct is blocked.


  • Massage or warm soaks can help to liquefy the milk and unblock the duct.

  • If the infection persists, an ultrasound is done to determine whether there is an area of infection. 

  • Antibiotics almost always get rid of infection.

An abscess may form in about 10% of cases. This is basically a collection of pus that has to be drained. The pus is then sent to the lab to identify the bacteria and what drugs they are sensitive to so the infection will be treated with the best antibiotic.

Note: It is important that Breast-feeding should not be discontinued during this time for both mother and child.

  • The antibiotics used are safe for children to ingest.

  • Also the bacteria will not hurt the child, as they will be killed by the baby’s stomach acid.

  • It is also good for the mother if the child goes on nursing because the sucking helps to unblock the duct.


Nonlactational Mastitis


This occurs in the nonlactating state. ie, in the absence of milk production.

It may occur in women who’ve had lumpectomies followed by radiation, in women with diabetes, or in women whose immune systems are otherwise depressed.

This will usually be an infection of the skin, cellulitis—red, hot, and swollen all over the breast. It is generally accompanied by high fever and headache.


It can usually be treated with antibiotics.

Rarely an abscess can occur in the breast in the absence of lactation or other risk factors.

Note: Both cellulitis and these abscesses can mask cancer. Therefore, although such cancer is rare, it’s important to have it checked out by a doctor.



Breast infections do not lead to breast cancer.

However, some breast cancers lead to infections or look like infections.

As the cancer cells grow, non-cancer cells die for lack of blood supply. The dead tissue can get infected. So it’s possible, though extremely unusual, for breast cancer to show up first as a breast abscess.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer can be mistaken for infection. This starts with redness of the skin, warmth, and swelling. There usually is no lump. What distinguishes it from infection is that it doesn’t get better with antibiotics.

A breast infection that persists after ten days to two weeks of antibiotics needs to see a doctor and have a biopsy.

So, in case of infection, see the doctor right away. Better to treat the infection before it becomes an abscess. Also to confirm it is just an infection.

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