A breast infection is an infection in the tissue of the breast.
Mastitis; Infection - breast tissue; Breast abscess - post partum mastitis; Breastfeeding - mastitis
Breast infections are usually caused by common bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus) found on normal skin. The bacteria enter through a break or crack in the skin, usually on the nipple.
The infection takes place in the fatty tissue of the breast and causes swelling. This swelling pushes on the milk ducts. The result is pain and lumps in the infected breast.
Breast infections usually occur in women who are breastfeeding. Breast infections that are not related to breastfeeding might be a rare form of breast cancer.
Symptoms of a breast infection may include:
Self-care may include applying moist heat to the infected breast tissue for 15 to 20 minutes four times a day. You may also need to take pain relievers.
Antibiotics are very effective in treating a breast infection. If you take antibiotics, you must continue to breastfeed or pump to relieve breast swelling from milk production.
In case if the abscess does not go away, needle aspiration under ultrasound guidance is done, along with antibiotics. If this method fails to respond, then incision and drainage is the treatment of choice.
The condition usually clears quickly with antibiotic therapy.
In severe infections, an abscess may develop. Abscesses need to be drained, either as an office procedure or with surgery. A wound dressing would be needed to help with healing after the procedure.Women with abscesses may be told to temporarily stop breastfeeding.
Call your provider if:
The following may help reduce the risk of breast infections:
Dabbs DJ, Weidner N. Infections of the breast. In: Dabbs DJ, ed. Breast Pathology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 3.
Dabbs DJ, Rakha EA. Metaplastic breast carcinoma. In: Dabbs DJ, ed. Breast Pathology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 25.
Dinulos JGH. Bacterial infections. In: Dinulos JGH, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 9.
Klimberg VS, Hunt KK. Diseases of the breast. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 35.