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Common breast abscess questions

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What does a breast abscess look like?

A breast abscess is a painful build-up of pus in the breast due to an infection. It often looks like a lump or swelling in your breast. Your breast may also be painful, red, and warm if you have an abscess.

What does a breast abscess feel like?

A breast abscess can feel painful, swollen and hot to the touch. You may also feel more than one lump.

Can a breast abscess go away on its own?

If you think you have a breast abscess, you should see a doctor. The pus in the abscess will need to be drained and the infection treated with antibiotics for the abscess to get better.

When would you need breast abscess surgery?

If your doctor confirms that you have a breast abscess, you will usually need a small procedure to drain the pus in it.

Small abscesses can be drained using a needle and syringe (sometimes with an ultrasound scan to guide the needle into place), while larger breast abscesses may need a small operation to cut open the skin and drain the pus. You may need a local anaesthetic to numb the area around the abscess before it is drained.

What is the recovery time for breast abscess surgery?

A drained breast abscess usually heals completely within a few days or weeks after surgery.

Can breastfeeding cause a breast abscess?

Breastfeeding itself may not directly cause a breast abscess. However, it can cause a breast infection (called mastitis) and this infection can lead to an abscess if it is not treated quickly.

Breastfeeding can lead to mastitis if milk builds up inside the breast and becomes infected by bacteria. Bacteria can enter the breast and cause infection via small cracks or sores in and around the nipple.

Can I breastfeed with a breast abscess?

Yes. If you have a breast abscess, one of the best things you can do is to carry on breastfeeding. Continuing to breast-feed can help to empty the affected breast and keep the milk flowing.

Breastfeeding from an infected breast is unlikely to harm your baby as the acid in your baby’s stomach will kill any bacteria that may be swallowed from your breast.

Feed from the affected breast first, usually for the next two or three feeds. This ensures it will empty well. You can also express milk from the affected side to make sure the breast is empty. Also, feed from the unaffected side to prevent a build-up of milk that could cause mastitis (breast inflammation) in that breast.

What antibiotics treat a breast abscess?

A breast abscess is usually treated with a small procedure to drain the pus. After drainage your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, such as dicloxacillin, cephalexin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and clindamycin.

The most effective length of antibiotic treatment for a breast abscess is currently unknown, but your doctor is likely to recommend 10 to 14 days of antibiotics after your abscess has been drained.

Can you treat a breast abscess at home?

If you suspect you have a breast abscess, you should contact a doctor immediately. The pus in the abscess will need to be drained for it to get better. You may also need antibiotic treatment.

Can a breast abscess cause cancer?

The cause of breast cancer is not fully understood. However, there are certain factors that are known to increase a person’s risk of developing breast cancer. At present, a breast abscess is not recognised as a cause of or risk factor for breast cancer.

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