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