Can Mastitis Be A Sign Of Breast Cancer?

The symptoms of the mastitis and inflammatory breast cancer are almost same but the pathophysiology of the disease as well as the reasons for these symptoms is completely different. Further, studies concluded that the presence of mastitis does not increase the risk of cancer.

Can Mastitis Be A Sign Of Breast Cancer?

Can Mastitis Be A Sign Of Breast Cancer?

Mastitis and breast cancer are different diseases and mastitis does not increase the risk of breast cancer. Cancer is caused due to the rapid and uncontrolled division of cells due to mutation. The oncogene becomes dominant over tumor suppressor genes in the cancer cells leading to continuous growth and damaging normal cells. Mastitis is the condition of inflammation in the breast due to the clogged milk duct or infection. The symptoms include pain, fever, inflammation, swollen lump, redness, and tender breasts. These symptoms are almost similar to a type of breast cancer termed as inflammatory breast cancer. As the swelling and pain in mastitis is often due to the presence of bacterial infection, thus prescribing antibiotics helps in easing the symptoms. However, this is not the case in inflammatory breast cancer as the use of antibiotics does not help relieving the symptoms.

The symptoms of the mastitis and breast cancer are similar, but both the conditions differ in their pathophysiology. While mastitis is due to the advanced condition of untreated clogged milk ducts, the inflammatory breast cancer causes obstruction in lymph vessels due to growth of cancer cells. Thus, the condition of the mastitis is not sign of breast cancer, but the symptoms of both the conditions are similar. Proper care should be taken of the lump in the breasts and if the lump continues to grow or does not respond to general treatment, consultation from the expert should be taken.

Causes Of Mastitis

Clogged Duct: Milk ducts are the connecting link between the alveoli, where the milk is produced, and nipples and the milk from alveoli flows through the milk ducts. Any clogging in the milk duct may result in reduced flow of milk and leading to milk stasis.

Infection: Mastitis is often developed due to bacterial infection. The bacteria generally responsible for mastitis include Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus species and E. coli. The treatment is done by administration of antibiotics such as Amoxicillin/clavulanic acid, cephalexin, dicloxacillin and clindamycin. The duration of treatment in case of mastitis due to infection is usually 10-14 days and depends upon the severity of infection and type of antibiotic used.

Menopause: Menopause also leads to mastitis and the condition is called duct ectasia. In this condition, the ducts behind the nipples get shorter and widened. Sometimes this condition may cause the symptoms such as pain and inflammation.

Nipple Piercing: Nipple piercing is in fashion however the women are unaware of the risk related to nipple piercing. Nipple piercing breaches the primary defense system and provides easy access to the bacteria for entering in to breasts. Thus, nipple piercing may also lead to bacteria-induced mastitis.

Symptoms Of Mastitis

Swollen Lump: Mastitis results in the swollen lump in the breasts due to the pressure created in the milk ducts. However, any suspicious lump should be analyzed by the healthcare professional.

Pain And Inflammation: Mastitis causes pain and inflammation as the tissues are damaged and the body starts producing inflammatory mediators.

Breast Tenderness: The pressure developed inside the breasts causes the breast to become tender and hard to touch. Further, the skin of the breast becomes red and warm.

Fever And Chills: Fever is experienced as a result of bacterial infection due to mastitis.

Fatigue: As the body requires energy to fight against infection, fatigue is experienced by the patient.

Nipple Discharge: There is a discharge form the nipple in case of mastitis. It may either be clear fluid or may contain traces of blood.


Mastitis does not increase the risk of breast cancer and both the conditions are independent of each other. Though both can simultaneously exist, but have a different pathophysiology and reasons for symptoms.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 4, 2018

Recent Posts

Related Posts