Clogged milk ducts are seen in women of all ages, whether lactating or non-lactating. The causes of clogged milk ducts are of a varied nature and they are usually age related. Also, the causes are different for lactating and non-lactating women.
Can Clogged Milk Ducts Cause Cancer?
Clogged milk ducts can cause cancer, though this happens very rarely. There are many reasons for the milk ducts to get plugged. The reasons vary in lactating and non-lactating women. Clogged milk ducts may lead to inflammation and infection, thereby causing mastitis, periductal mastitis or a breast abscess. All these conditions are usually non-cancerous and there is not a fat chance that all these will lead you to cancer. Also, none of these conditions mean that you are more prone to get cancer in future.
Clogged milk ducts may be painful sometimes and there might be a discharge from the nipples. The affected breast may become red and warm to touch and there can be a degree of soreness and discomfort in the affected breast. Clogged milk ducts can cause cancer, though this is a very rare possibility and is not seen very commonly.
There are various reasons for milk ducts to get clogged or obstructed in women according to their age and other factors. Let us have a look at the causes.
In lactating or breastfeeding women, clogged ducts and milk stasis may happen if-
- A baby is unable to latch on properly to the breast at the time of breastfeeding:
- If the baby does not properly get latched on to the breasts, the milk does not get removed properly and completely, leaving some milk still in the ducts
- If there is a collection of milk in the ducts due to this reason, there is a chance that it might get infected with bacteria and cause inflammation and result in clogged ducts
A baby able to attach to the breast but unable to suck-on the breast properly:
- In an event like a baby being affected by a tongue-tie, which means that her tongue is attached to the floor of her mouth, the baby will not be able to suck on the breasts correctly due to inefficient lip movements
if the feedings are infrequent, the feeds may get missed, like in an event that the baby starts taking longer naps or sleeping for longer duration at night, the breast may get full and breast milk may get incompletely removed, which will cause accumulation of milk and in turn, an infection
Single breast feeding:
If one breast is frequently used for feeding, such as in case of a cracked or a sore nipple on the other breast, the affected breast may be less offered for feeding as it may inflict some pain which may make feeding difficult and uncomfortable. In such case, the breast will not get emptied due to the frequent emptying of the other breast and collected milk will lead to an infection over time
An injury to the breast:
- A severe breast injury may lead to damaged milk ducts or mammary glands
- This can result in the blockage and in turn, an infection
If the breasts are under constant pressure like from an ill-fitting bra or sleeping on the abdomen, the constant abnormal pressure will cause the ducts to get damaged and obstructed
In non-lactating women, the milk ducts can get clogged due to aging:
- As a natural aging process, the milk ducts below the nipples and areola become wide and short
- Fluid can easily get trapped in these milk ducts leading to obstruction
- This is known as mammary duct ectasia
- Though this rarely turns into a cancer, but still there is a possibility.
Mammary duct ectasia usually gets corrected on its own, but if it advances, it may get converted in an infection and progress into mastitis or even breast abscess.