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Breast abscess - Diagnosis, symptoms and treatment

A breast abscess occurs almost exclusively in breastfeeding women. Its origin is often caused by an infection due to a small fissure in the breast, called a crevasse - which is due to a wrong position of the infant during breastfeeding or an improper feeding technique - but can also be caused by milk stasis causing inflammatory phenomena which can then become infected. The stage of the apparition of an abscess is a late stage in the evolution of an inflammatory breast mass called mastitis. Initially, a simple breast pain and inflammation with a small sensitive area is identified. If the diagnosis is not made at this stage, the disease progresses to infection with an accentuation of symptoms and the onset of fever.


Young mothers often have knowledge of the pathology of breast abscesses and will consult a professional prior to the development of the abscess. Also, when a patient consults a doctor or gynecologist, it is to put an end to the pain, often intense, caused by mastitis. The diagnosis will be confirmed after a simple clinical examination. Additional tests are generally unnecessary.


A breast abscess is most often seen in the first few days or weeks after discharge from hospital. The symptoms are:
  • Painful swelling of the breast;
  • Redness and inflammation of the breast,
  • Pain to the touch and widespread pain,
  • High fever often around 40 °C;
  • Strong fatigue.


In the case of mastitis - that is to say a simple inflammation of the breast without abscess - breastfeeding can be continued after the patient is reminded of how to properly give the breast to the infant. Local treatment by applying warm compresses to promote the expansion of ducts associated with pain treatment by anti-inflammatory drugs is recommended. If breast abscesses are found, hospitalization is necessary to drain the abscess by surgery and antibiotics are given intravenously. In case of a breast abscess, breastfeeding is prohibited.


It is possible to prevent the occurrence of breast abscesses. To do this, young mothers should be informed of how to breastfeed correctly and pay special attention to the position they choose to breastfeed as well as the hygiene of their chest. The application of a restorative cream after each feeding is sometimes recommended.

Photo credits : Iryna Timonina - 123RF

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