About Mastitis

Mastitis is essentially an infection of breast tissue, which may result in swelling, pain, redness, and warmth in the breast. Mastitis often involves nipple discharge as well. The term is widely used to cover a range of related conditions, some of which may involve inflammation. Sometimes the breast inflammation or infection are due to problems associated with breast feading, in which case it is termed 'lactation mastitis', or 'puerperal mastitis'.( puerperal means 'related to the period of time following childbirth') When the condition occurs with non-lactating women it is called 'non-puerperal' mastitis.


breast mastitis


Mastitis is usually caused by an over-supply of breast milk. However, essentially the same symptoms may be caused by breast ducts which have become plugged, and there is always a possibility that breast cancer is the underlying cause. There is a very serious and aggressive form of breast cancer called 'inflammatory breast cancer' which has similar symptoms to mastitis. For this reason, the condition is taken quite seriously, and if symptoms are not resolved with five weeks, a full investigation and screening for breast cancer should be initiated.


puerperal mastitis of the breast


Does Mastitis increase risk for breast cancer?

Mastitis is an infection and completely unrelated to a genetic disease like breast cancer. However, there is some evidence that when non-puerperal mastitis (not related to childbirth and breast feeding) occurs, the chances of developing a non-inflammatory breast cancer within the next year or two or somewhat increased. This suggests that a woman may have a higher-than-average genetic predisposition to breast tissue diseases, and it might be a good idea to have breast cancer screening, or at least clinical examination, more frequently.

Other names and related conditions for mastitis

Mastitis is a general term for breast infection, and there are a variety of other terms associated with subtle differences and the presence of inflammation, discharge, and the amount of tissue damage which has occured. Alternate and related terms include subareolar abscess, duct ectasia, periductal inflammation-periductal mastitis, Zuska's disease, comedo mastitis,mastitis obliterans, plasma cell mastitis, and cholesterol granuloma.'

Idiopathic granulomatous lobular mastitis (IGLM)

Idiopathic granulomatous mastitis, (or Idiopathic granulomatous lobular mastitis -IGLM), is an uncommon chronic inflammatory breast lesion which is clinically very similar to breast cancer. IGLM often forms a palpable breast mass, and may even resemble breast carcinoma on an mammogram. This condition generally occurs only in younger women in the years following the birth of a child, but has not been shown to be consistently related to either breastfeeding, or the use of oral contraceptives.s

Treatment for mastitis

Simple mastitis is usually treated with antibiotics, and with self-help techniques for emptying the breast of milk more frequently and fully.



  1. Middleton LP, Amin M, Gwyn K, Theriault R, Sahin A (2003). "Breast carcinoma in pregnant women: assessment of clinicopathologic and immunohistochemical features". Cancer 98 (5): 105560
  2. Peters F, Kiesslich A, Pahnke V (2002). "Coincidence of nonpuerperal mastitis and noninflammatory breast cancer". Eur. J. Obstet. Gynecol. Reprod. Biol. 105 (1): 59–63
  3. Lee, Jei Hee., Oh, Ki Keun., Kim, Eun-Kim., Kwack, Kyu Sung., Jung, Woo Hee., Lee, Han Kyung. Radiologic and Clinical Features of Idiopathic Granulomatous Lobular Mastitis Mimicking Advanced Breast Cancer. (Yonsei University College of Medicine) Yonsei Med J. 2006 February 28; 47(1): 78–84.
  4. Rieber A, Tomczak RJ, Mergo PJ, Wenzel V, Zeitler H, Brambs HJ. MRI of the breast in the differential diagnosis of mastitis versus inflammatory carcinoma and follow-up. J Comput Assist Tomogr. 1997;21:128–132
  5. Kessler E, Wolloch Y. Granulomatous mastitis: a lesion clinically simulating carcinoma. Am J Clin Pathol. 1972;58:642–646.
  6. Foxman B; D'Arcy H; Gillespie B; Bobo JK; Schwartz K. Lactation mastitis: occurrence and medical management among 946 breastfeeding women in the United States. Am J Epidemiol 2002 Jan 15;155(2):103-14

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