Breast Abscess (Mastitis)

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Mastitis or breast abscess is a medical condition in which there is a lump due to a buildup of pus. This collection of pus is due to a breast infection that causes pain and tenderness.

Breast abscess conditions generally occur in lactating women that are within the age group of 15 to 45 years.

In some cases, mastitis can be a sign of breast cancer.

Apart from lactating women, breast abscess can also affect overweight or obese women and women who have large breasts. This condition is more likely to happen to women that do not maintain the hygiene of their breasts. 

If not treated immediately, breast abscess can be dangerous, especially for the baby. However, a lactating woman can still breastfeed her child with the breast that is not affected by mastitis. 

Causes of Mastitis

A breast abscess will form if a person has a tissue infection in the breast, called mastitis. Symptoms will appear if mastitis is not treated quickly.

Infected mastitis will lead to blockage of the breast glands. As a result, pus will collect, accumulate, and form a breast abscess lump.

Mastitis infection is caused by several types of bacteria, one of which is the staphylococcus aureus and streptococcus bacteria. In addition, breast gland obstruction may also occur due to scars on the breast.

The spread of bacteria that cause infection or scarring generally occurs when a woman is breastfeeding. The bacteria can enter through the nipple while breastfeeding, or through cracks in the nipple and areola. 

Blocked milk ducts can also lead to mastitis infection. This condition will eventually develop into a breast abscess.

Breast abscesses may also affect women who are not breastfeeding. Risk factors include:

  • Breast injury.
  • Nipple piercing.
  • Cracked or sore nipple
  • Breast implant surgery.
  • Have diabetes or immune problems.

When to See a Doctor for Mastitis?

Patients diagnosed with breast abscess should discuss their condition with a general surgeon. The surgeon will help detect the condition by conducting a medical interview regarding the lump. 

Additionally, the doctor may also prescribe a series of physical tests and investigations to detect a breast abscess.

One of the most common physical tests is an ultrasound scan or ultrasound imaging test to scan the breast. This ultrasound is able to measure the location of the infection and its depth. An ultrasound can also help detect whether the lump is mastitis, breast abscess, or a tumor.

A breast abscess can be drained using a needle and syringe during the scan. The drained liquid can later be used as a sample to be tested in the laboratory for bacterial infection problems.

Apart from an ultrasound scan, other possible imaging tests to detect a breast abscess are via a mammography and breast biopsy, which involves taking tissue samples from the lump in the breast for laboratory testing.

In certain cases, the doctor may perform further tests to determine the condition of the patient’s breast abscess. The follow-up tests include laboratory tests, which requires taking samples of pus or breast milk using an injection.

Symptoms of Mastitis

The condition of a breast abscess can be identified by a lump in the breast area. The lump will feel soft and move when touched.

In cases where a breast abscess is growing on the inside of the breast, it will be difficult to detect by touch or sight.

Each patient diagnosed with breast abscess experiences different symptoms. The symptoms of each patient depend on the depth of the abscess and its severity. Symptoms can include:

  • Muscle pain
  • Swelling or lump in the breast.
  • Fever that lasts three days.
  • Pain in the breast affected by a breast abscess.
  • A warm, painful, swollen redness appears on the breast.
  • Skin redness, pain sensation, and breast swelling

Lactating women are advised to consult a doctor immediately if she feels specific symptoms of breast abscess, such as:

  • The nipple is pulled inward.
  • Abnormal discharge from the nipple.
  • Pain sensation when breastfeeding.

Treatment for Mastitis

There are many treatment options that doctors can perform to treat patients with breast abscess conditions. Some of the most common treatments include prescribing antibiotics for regular consumption.

Antibiotics work to treat infections that cause breast abscesses. These antibiotics will attack bacteria and relieve symptoms experienced by patients.

In some cases of severe breast abscess, the patient may have to undergo surgery to remove the pus.

Drainage of pus using a needle and an ultrasonic scanner is also a method of treatment that is commonly used. This method involves using a needle inserted several times into the lump to remove the pus. This process is usually done multiple times.

During this procedure, the doctor will inject an anaesthetic to numb the breasts and nipples. After the pus is drained, the abscess will heal on its own in a few days or a few weeks.

Patients with a large abscess lump may need to be treated with surgery to make a small incision in the breast and use drainage.

Treatment Cost for Mastitis

Breast abscess treatment varies depending on the depth of the abscess, the symptoms or lumps, and the treatment method recommended by the doctor.

For more information regarding the estimated costs of Mastitis treatment, contact Smarter Health.

Prevention of Mastitis

Breast abscess occurs due to bacteria that enters through the nipple when a woman is breastfeeding. These bacteria can also accumulate if you do not maintain your breast hygiene.

Therefore, one of the preventive measures that can be undertaken is by maintaining breast hygiene. Apart from preventing infections that cause abscesses, keeping the breasts clean is also important when you breastfeed a baby. Maintaining breast hygiene includes not piercing the nipples and protecting yourself from other diseases that can trigger infections, such as diabetes.

In addition, for women who have experienced injuries or scars on the breasts, either on the nipples or areola, it is better to have regular checkups and treatment. This helps prevent breast infections and abscesses.

For lactating women, there are several preventive measures that can be practiced, such as: 

  • Always wash your hands before breastfeeding.
  • Avoid wearing tight fitting bras or clothes.
  • Alternate breasts when breastfeeding 
  • Make sure your baby latches on properly during feedings.

Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Mastitis

To relieve the infection, patients diagnosed with breast abscess are advised to get plenty of rest at home before returning to normal activities. It is also recommended to drink water as much as possible to increase fluids in the body.

In dealing with pain and other symptoms that appear, patients may consume medications, such as paracetamol or anti-infective medicines that do not contain steroids. For lactating women, it is best to consult your doctor first before taking the paracetamol medicines. 

Cold compress can also help relieve pain.

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