Non-Cancerous Breast Conditions

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Duct ectasia


Mastitis is inflammation of the breast. It’s most often caused by a breast infection and is most often seen in women who are breastfeeding, but it can happen in any woman. A break in the skin or an opening in the nipple can allow bacteria to enter the breast duct, where they can grow.


Mastitis can usually be diagnosed based on a woman’s symptoms and the results of a breast exam. The body’s white blood cells release substances to fight the infection. This causes swelling and increased blood flow. The area may become painful, red, and warm to the touch. Other symptoms can include fever and a headache.


Mastitis is treated with antibiotics. In some cases, a breast abscess (a collection of pus) may form. Abscesses are treated by draining the pus, either by surgery or by using a needle (often guided by ultrasound), and then giving antibiotics.

Link to cancer risk

Having mastitis does not raise a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. But an uncommon type of cancer known as inflammatory breast cancer has symptoms that are a lot like mastitis and can be mistaken for an infection. If you are diagnosed with mastitis but antibiotic treatment does not help within a week or so, a biopsy of the skin may be needed to be sure it’s not cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer can spread quickly, so do not put off going back to the doctor if you still have symptoms after antibiotic treatment.

Last Medical Review: 03/16/2015
Last Revised: 06/10/2015