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Breast abscess

Breast abscess: Introduction

A breast abscess is a hollow space in the breast that is filled with pus and surrounded by inflamed tissue. A breast abscess is often a complication of mastitis, an inflammation and infection of breast tissue. Mastitis and breast abscess are due to an invasion of bacteria that enter the breast tissue through the nipple and cause a bacterial infection of the milk ducts and milk glands.

The body tries to attack the bacterial infection by sending a surge of white blood cells (infection fighting cells) to the infected area. During this process living and dead white blood cells, fluid, bacteria, and dead tissue collect within the infected tissue and form pus. The surrounding tissue also becomes inflamed and painful.

Breast abscesses are uncommon. When breast abscesses do occur they are most common in breastfeeding women because breastfeeding can cause cracked nipples, which allow bacteria to more easily enter the breast. Breast abscesses can also occur in women who are over overweight, have large breasts, or have poor personal hygiene. Smoking may also increase the risk of developing a breast abscess. In rare cases mastitis and a breast abscess may be a sign of breast cancer. However, breast abscesses are most commonly due to an infection of the bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus.

Symptoms of a breast abscess include breast swelling or breast lump, and pain in the area around the nipple. A breast abscess can also lead to complications. For more information on complications and symptoms, refer to symptoms of breast abscess.

Making a diagnosis of a breast abscess begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination that focuses on the breasts. A breast abscess can generally be diagnosed based on symptoms and a physical exam.

Tests that might be performed include a complete blood count (CBC). A CBC is a blood test that measures the numbers of different types of blood cells, including white blood cells (WBCs). Different types of WBCs increase in number in characteristic ways during an infectious or inflammatory process, such as a breast abscess. A culture and sensitivity test (C and S) may also be performed. This involves growing a sample of breast milk from the affected breast in the laboratory. This test determines the type of organism causing the breast abscess, as well as which antibiotic would be most effective in treating it.

It is possible that a diagnosis of a breast abscess can be missed or delayed because some symptoms, such as breast lump and inflammation, are similar to symptoms of other diseases of conditions. For more information about misdiagnosis and diseases and conditions that can mimic a breast abscess, refer to misdiagnosis of breast abscess.

Treatment of a breast abscess includes medications and possibly an incision and drainage procedure. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of breast abscess. ...more »

Breast abscess: Pus-filled abscess in the breast. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Breast abscess is available below.

Breast abscess: Symptoms

Symptoms of a breast abscess include a breast lump, often located near the nipple. In some cases, the breast lump may be located in another area of the breast. The lump and nearby area is also painful, swollen, red, and inflamed and can feel hot to the touch. Other symptoms can include fever, nipple discharge, and swollen glands (swollen lymph nodes) under the armpit ...more symptoms »

Breast abscess: Treatments

The first step in treating breast abscesses is preventing their occurrence. Prevention includes maintaining good personal hygiene with frequent hand washing and washing the body with soap and water. It is important that women who are breastfeeding clean their nipples before and after each breastfeeding session and to promptly report any symptoms of mastitis or breast abscess to their ...more treatments »

Breast abscess: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of a breast abscess may be delayed or missed because some symptoms, such as a breast lump, mimic symptoms of other diseases and conditions. These include fibrocystic breasts, breast cyst, breast cancer, and mastitis. Early symptoms of a breast abscess may also be masked or hidden by engorged breasts. ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Breast abscess

Treatments for Breast abscess

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Misdiagnosis and Breast abscess

Rare type of breast cancer without a lump: There is a less common form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer. Its symptoms can be an inflammation of the...read more »

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