Many women between the ages of 30 and 50 experience lumps in their breasts. Oftentimes these are naturally occurring lumps that do not require intervention. However, sometimes breast lumps can be a result of an abscess, hematoma or other serious condition.
Breast abscesses indicate that an infection is present in the breast. An abscess is a collection of pus containing live white blood cells, dead white blood cells, bacteria or other foreign substances, and dead tissue. Often the abscess is painful and requires immediate treatment by a doctor. In comparison, a breast hematoma is a painful bruise on the breast as a result of trauma.
A breast abscess is usually found in lactating women. Inflammation of the breast is called mastitis and usually occurs before an abscess forms. The inflammation makes the breast tender and breast feeding painful, and it signals an infection. If the mastitis does not clear up on its own, an abscess will likely form. While the abscess is a result of an infection, the hematoma is a bruise caused by injury to the breast. It will usually heal without intervention.
Once mastitis has progressed to becoming an abscess, a lump can be felt at the site of the abscess. The lump is painful and may feel hot to the touch. Other symptoms include feeling feverish and having flu-like symptoms. The skin over the lump may be red. Hematomas can appear exactly like breast abscesses. They share some of the same characteristics. Hematomas are swellings below the skin. The swelling is pooled blood, which often gives hematomas the bruised, blue and red colours. The hematoma is painful to the touch. Sometimes the area can become inflamed.
Standard treatment for a breast abscess is a course of antibiotics and abscess drainage. If the abscess is small, the doctor may drain the pus during an office visit. For large abscesses she may refer the patient to a surgeon for drainage of the abscess. Hematomas are not infections, and no antibiotics are needed to treat them. Like breast abscesses, large hematomas may need to be drained in order for healing to be completed. Small hematomas are usually absorbed by the body.
Breast lumps not related to trauma or injury should be discussed with a doctor. Both breast cancer and fibrocystic breast disease have symptoms that mimic a breast abscess. Possible consequences of an untreated breast abscess include the rupture of the abscess into surrounding tissue. The infection is then able to spread to the surrounding areas including the milk ducts, which would allow the infectious agents into the breast milk. Additionally, if the abscess ruptures, the infection may progress to a large scale infection of the blood.
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