Breast Abscess and Mastitis
A lump that is painful and presenting in a lactating women is generally an abscess. The actual lump of the abscess is preceeded by redness and inflammation of the skin and the tissue over the area of the breast and is called mastitis. The lumps of abscess are usually tender, smooth, round and sometimes movable.
An abscess is nothing but a pus-filled space that form under the skin due to bacterial infection. The infection results in activation of your immune sytem and the arrival of white blood cells to fight and kill the bacteria.
Breast abscess occurs in the first few weeks after starting breast feeding due the entry of the Staphylococcus Aureus, a bacterial organism, through the cracked nipple and in a blocked duct. It spreads rapidly due to milk acting as a good culture medium for the bacteria to proliferate. The bacteria soon causes tissue damage; this along with the white cells that fight the bacteria lead to suppuration and abscess fomation.
Consulting a doctor at the early stage of masititis can prevent abscess formation by taking antibiotics such as cephalosporins or eryrthromycin.
Once an abscess is formed the only treatment is surgical drainage under anesthesia. Sometimes a drainage with a needle under ulrasound guidance, along with antibiotiocs and suppression of lactation by hormones, can settle the abscess.
These conditions generally affects women between the age of 18 to 50 years and are uncommon in non-lactating women. Breast feeding prevents cancer formation and the longer a woman breast feeds the lower the risks.
Maliganancy and Breast abscess - Breast cancer in lactating women is rare but sometimes it may appear as red breast with no fever. If there are repeated masitis episodes in the same area there maybe an underlying tumor that has been missed. Occasionally Paget’s disease of the nipple (a cancerous conditon) can be mistaken for eczema or a fungal infection.
Milk production, breast feeding and breast abscess - Most often women tend to stop breast feeding during episodes of mastitis, however the current view is to continue breast feeding as emptying the breast helps to clear the infection. Using a pump can help express the milk and the milk can be then fed to the infant without any harm.
Preventing Breast abscess - All women who breast feed should learn to take care of their nipples - as prevention is the most effective strategy against breast abscess.