Mastitis is a condition in which the breast becomes inflamed due to an underlying infection. Although mastitis usually affects women during breastfeeding, it can happen at other times, too. Bacteria can enter the breast duct through the nipple or a skin break and lead to infection. As the body fights the infection, the breast can become red, inflamed, and tender.
Other symptoms may include:
- fever, headache, generally feeling ill
- a lump in the area
- thick, whitish nipple discharge
- an abscess, or the collection of pus in the area
Mastitis is treated with antibiotics. It should get better within about 10 days or 2 to 3 weeks at the most. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (brand name: Tylenol) or ibuprofen (brand names: Advil, Motrin) can be helpful, along with warm compresses applied every few hours. If an abscess forms, it may need to be drained using a needle or during a minor surgical procedure.
Although mastitis can be quite painful, it doesn’t increase your risk of breast cancer.