Swollen Breast: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Swelling of the breast can occur as a response to infections or other causes of fluid buildup in the breast tissue. Less commonly, breast cancers can cause breast swelling, particularly the type of breast cancer known as inflammatory breast cancer. In this case, there is usually associated warmth, pain or tenderness, and redness of the breast. Breast swelling can also be due to lymphedema, or the buildup of lymphatic fluid in tissues. This can happen when there is blockage of the lymphatic drainage system, such as the lymph nodes of the armpit (axilla). Infections are another cause of swelling that can affect the breast, such as mastitis (inflammation of the breast tissue) or breast abscess. In healthy women, breast swelling (of both breasts) may occur in the premenstrual phase and during pregnancy and lactation.

REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/12/2017

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