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About breast dimpling

Updated March 23, 2017

Breasts are not static. They change during a woman's cycle, sometimes becoming lumpy, painful or swollen.

Changes that do not go away, however, should be reported to one's doctor. This includes breast dimpling. The cause of breast dimpling may be benign, or it may indicate a problem.

Identification

Breast dimpling may appear in several different ways. For example, you may see the dimpling only in certain positions, such as when the arms are raised.

There may be one dimple, a single pucker in the skin. Or there may be many dimples, like the skin of a orange. This is known as peau d'orange or orange peel.

Dimples may not hurt or they may be accompanied with other symptoms, such as breast tenderness or lumps.

Significance

Breast dimpling may be a symptom of cancer, so all breast dimpling should be investigated by a doctor. The dimpling can indicate a fluid build-up in the breast tissue because of a blocked lymphatic system. It can also indicate that there's a deep tumour that is pulling the tissues and ligaments around it, causing the skin to dimple.

Dimpling accompanied by other symptoms, such as changes in breast size, visibility of veins, lumps or nipple discharge, should be looked into immediately. Some changes are normal during menstruation, but if these symptoms do not go away or are painful, ask your doctor.

For some women, breast dimpling has no significance, but a doctor should still be visited to rule out cancer.

Causes

There are many possible causes of breast dimpling, including cancer and a breast abscess.

In breast-feeding women, a blocked milk duct or its infection, mastitis, can cause dimpling. Mastitis often needs antibiotic treatment, so visit a doctor.

Fibrocystic breast disease, a benign condition that causes painful lumpy breasts, can also sometimes cause a dimpled appearance. As many as 60 per cent of women have fibrocystic breasts.

A breast-surgery scar can also cause dimpling around it.

Misconceptions

Many women fear that having a dimple automatically means that they have cancer. While this is sometimes true and is a cause to investigate, this is often not the case.

Breasts are a collection of fatty tissue, ligaments and milk ducts that change over time and because of pregnancy and hormones. While dimples should always be brought to a doctor's attention in a timely manner, women should try not to lose sleep over a small breast dimple.

Treatment

The doctor will examine the breasts and determine if further evaluation, such as a biopsy or mammogram, is needed.

If there is a fluid-filled cyst near the dimple, the doctor may insert a needle into the cyst. Fibrocystic cysts usually deflate and go away. If the cyst does not deflate, the doctor usually will order a biopsy.

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About the Author

Margaret Dilloway's debut novel, "How to be an American Housewife," is out now and her second, "The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns," will be published in August 2012. She has been a writer for more than 10 years and has written for publications such as "San Diego Family Magazine" and the Huffington Post. Dilloway holds a B.A. from Scripps College.