Read below about breast swelling, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your breast swelling from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Breast Swelling Symptoms

Unexplained breast swelling can be concerning and uncomfortable for women, and for good reason. Any changes within the breast can signify a serious medical issue. However, there are plenty of other reasons behind breast swelling and other changes that are non-life threatening and even normal in some situations.

Some breast swelling symptoms include:

Breasts describe the tissue over the pectoral muscles that serve as the mammary gland in women. Breast tissue produces milk along with fatty tissue, and the amount of fat produced by the breast determines its size.

The part of the breast that produces milk — when required — is made up of 15-20 sections. These sections, called lobes, are smaller structures that produce milk. The liquid travels to the nipples through ducts. Breasts also contain connective tissue and ligaments along with nerves, blood vessels, and lymph nodes.

Obviously, breasts go through a variety of changes throughout a woman's life. From development during puberty, to adaptations during pregnancy, to changes after menopause, it's normal for breasts to change in size, appearance, and shape over time.

However, the same changes that can be classified as normal can also signify serious medical concerns. Therefore, it's important for women to always perform breast self-examinations and inform their doctor of any concerning changes as soon as possible.

Breast Swelling Causes Overview

As already stated, any change in the breast should be noted and monitored. However, the good news is that the majority of breast swelling concerns can be explained by a cause that isn't linked to a serious medical issue.

Consider the following types of causes when determining the reason behind swelling in the breast.

  • Infectious causes: Infectious causes are one reason for breast swelling. If there is a crack in the skin or the breast is poked with a contaminated object, both bacterial and fungal infections are possible. Infections can also enter through the nipple.
  • Traumatic causes: Traumatic causes include physical injury. There are a variety of ways breast injury can occur. One of the most traumatic is a car accident or other intense force. However, something as simple as bumping into a sharp corner or wearing tight clothing can cause breast swelling.
  • Medical causes: Medical causes could be behind swelling in the breast. Breast cancer would be the most serious possibility, but swelling alone is not reason enough to believe cancer is present. If there are also lumps in the breast, a check-up is always recommended, but keep in mind that there are medical conditions that cause benign breast lumps.
  • Other causes: Other causes of breast swelling include premenstrual syndrome, water retention, and pregnancy. Taking birth control pills can also cause swelling. In these situations, swelling is expected and not an immediate cause for concern.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Breast Swelling

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced breast swelling. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Breast Infection (Mastitis)

    Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that results in breast pain, swelling, warmth and redness of the breast. Mastitis most commonly affects women who are breast-feeding (lactation mastitis), although sometimes this condition can occur in women who aren't breast-feeding.

    2-3 weeks with treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea, breast pain, signs of breast inflammation like redness, swelling or fever, fever
    Symptoms that always occur with breast infection (mastitis):
    breast pain, signs of breast inflammation like redness, swelling or fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Plugged Breast Duct

    If you're making milk faster than it's getting expressed, it can get backed up in the duct. When this happens, the tissue around the duct may become swollen and inflamed and press on the duct, causing a blockage.

    Days

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    breast pain, breast lump, painful breast lump
    Symptoms that never occur with plugged breast duct:
    fever, breast redness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Breast Cyst

    A breast cyst is a fluid-filled sac (like a tiny balloon) inside the breast. Breast cysts are common in women. They might cause a little pain, but they are usually benign (not cancerous).

    Resolves with treatment but can recur

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    breast pain, breast lump, painful breast lump, movable breast lump
    Symptoms that always occur with breast cyst:
    breast lump
    Symptoms that never occur with breast cyst:
    armpit lump, fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Breast Abscess

    A breast infection is an infection in the tissue of the breast. Breast infections are usually caused by a common bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, found on normal skin.

    2-3 weeks with treatment

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, breast pain, signs of breast inflammation like redness, swelling or fever, fever, chills
    Symptoms that always occur with breast abscess:
    breast pain, signs of breast inflammation like redness, swelling or fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Breast Swelling Checker

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  5. 5.Fibrocystic Breast Changes

    Fibrocystic change is a generalized term used to describe a variety of benign changes in the breast. Symptoms of this condition are breast swelling or pain, as well as nodules, lumpiness, or nipple discharge.

    Relapsing, lasting years

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    breast lump, hard breast lump, nipple discharge, rope-like breast lump
    Symptoms that always occur with fibrocystic breast changes:
    breast lump
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Premenstrual Syndrome

    Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a very common condition. PMS has a variety of symptoms including cramping, mood swings, food cravings, fatigue, irritability, breast tenderness & depression.

    Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome can last all the way into menopause.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    stomach bloating, anxiety, constipation, depressed mood, breast pain
    Symptoms that never occur with premenstrual syndrome:
    constant sadness, severe sadness, disapearance of periods for over a year
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  7. 7.Non - Specific Breast Pain

    Breast pain is either related to menstruation (cyclic) or not (noncyclic). It is common in pre-menopausal women and can also be a side effect of contraceptives that contain hormones like the pill, anticonceptive injections and intra-uterine devices.

    7 days

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    breast pain, breast swelling, armpit pain
    Symptoms that always occur with non-specific breast pain:
    breast pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Breast Cancer

    Breast cancer affects one in eight women during their lives. It is caused by uncontrolled and fast growth of damaged cells in the breast tissue. These cells can also move to the lymph nodes and sometimes other organs. The main symptom of breast cancer is a hard or firm, non-mobile, usually non-tender lump in the breast that increases in size.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    breast pain, armpit lump, breast mass or retraction, breast lump, nipple discharge
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Possible Pregnancy

    In women of reproductive age, symptoms including missed period, weight gain, and nausea are indicative of pregnancy.

    9 months

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea or vomiting, stomach bloating, bloody vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding
    Symptoms that always occur with possible pregnancy:
    missed period
    Symptoms that never occur with possible pregnancy:
    painful urination, severe abdominal pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

Breast Swelling Treatments and Relief

If you believe the cause of your breast swelling is related to a non-serious cause, there are a few at-home treatments you can try to relieve any associated discomfort.

If you notice any of the following, schedule an appointment with your doctor sooner than later.

When treating breast swelling, try the following treatments.

  • Supportive Clothing: If you believe tight, ill-fitting clothing is behind your breast swelling, switch to supportive bras and looser shirts to see if there's a change.
  • Ice or Heat Pack: If an injury is behind your breast swelling, try applying ice or heat for relief.
  • Change of Pills or Medication: For hormonal causes, discuss switching medications with your doctor. If contraceptives are the cause of the swelling, you might be able to try a different brand.
  • Over-the-Counter Meds : Pain relieving medications can also relieve swelling if the cause behind them isn't related to a serious underlying condition like cancer.

Breast swelling can be a normal occurrence. But if you have a history of breast diseases in your family or have reason to believe there is a serious cause behind your discomfort, it's always best to seek medical advice.

Before panic sets in, remember that most breast changes are part of their normal cycle.

FAQs About Breast Swelling

Here are some frequently asked questions about breast swelling.

Do breasts swell before period?

Yes, breast swelling in sync with a menstrual cycle is normal. It frequently involves both breasts and is caused by alteration of ducts within the breast tissue. In response to the hormones released just prior to a menstrual period, a woman's body begins some very early changes that prepare it for a child. One of these changes involves development of breast tissue in preparation for milk production and delivery. This can cause intermittent breast swelling. If you have breast swelling that occurs out of sync with your period, you should seek medical evaluation.

Are swollen breasts a sign of pregnancy?

Yes. Breasts can swell early in pregnancy. They can swell within one or two weeks of pregnancy or become tender. Swollen breasts can also occur closer to birth as the body prepares to make milk for the newborn. Breast swelling is one of the most commonly cited early signs of pregnancy. If you suspect you are pregnant, you should either seek medical evaluation or take an over-the-counter pregnancy test.

Why do I only have one swollen breast?

One swollen breast can be a sign of benign (non-invasive) or malignant (invasive) tumor mass, infection of the nipple and milk ducts in a breastfeeding mother, or, more infrequently, changes coinciding with menstration. If you have one swollen breast that does not swell in sync with your menstrual period, you should consider evaluation by your general practitioner.

Can swollen breast be a result of breastfeeding (breast engorgement)?

Yes, breastfeeding can lead to mastitis or swelling of the breast from infection, usually from a baby's mouth. The most common and appropriate treatment is to continue to breastfeed while taking anti-inflammatory pain medication, remembering to wipe milk or formula from the gums of the infant to decrease the amount of bacteria, and a penicillin antibiotic may help alleviate symptoms faster.

When should you seek medical attention for swollen breasts?

When swelling persists out of sync with a period, or is accompanied by a fever, pus, or redness. Swelling of both breasts is less worrisome than swelling of one breast. If you have other symptoms like a prolonged cough, fever, or chills you should seek medical attention. If you have a diffuse rash or bleeding from the nipple you should also seek medical attention.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Breast Swelling

  • Q.Are you sexually active?
  • Q.Do you feel pain when you urinate?
  • Q.Do you currently use estrogen as a hormone replacement therapy?
  • Q.Do you currently smoke?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our breast swelling symptom checker to find out more.

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Breast Swelling Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced breast swelling have also experienced:

    • 16% Breast Pain
    • 9% Bloody Vaginal Discharge
    • 5% Vaginal Bleeding
  • People who have experienced breast swelling had symptoms persist for:

    • 41% Less Than a Week
    • 16% Over a Month
    • 16% One to Two Weeks
  • People who have experienced breast swelling were most often matched with:

    • 40% Breast Infection (Mastitis)
    • 30% Plugged Breast Duct
    • 30% Breast Cyst
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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