Breast Cellulitis – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Breast cellulitis is a bacterial infection that involves superficial skin and the subcutaneous tissue, begins by inhabiting the lower half of the breast. This condition mostly occurs as a complication arising after surgery or radiotherapy. In most cases this is treatable, however, breast cellulitis requires special medical attention as it can be indicative of Inflammatory Breast Cancer.

Location of pain

The pain associated with breast cellulitis is typically felt in the area affected by it. This occupies the lower part of the breast in the beginning, later on dispersing and occupying the whole of the breast.

Duration of pain

The pain lasts for 4 months to a year, depending upon the cause behind cellulitis.


  • Redness of skin.
  • Swollen breast.
  • Fever and chills.
  • The skin is warm and inflamed.
  • Rash that spreads fast, occupying the whole of the breast.
  • Severe breast pain (Mastalgia) and tenderness.
  • Edema.
  • Pustules.


Since it is a bacterial infection, thus it can occur as a primary as well as a secondary infection. Following are some conditions that are responsible for the Breast Cellulitis:

  • The Breast Cellulitis with the primary cause is due to opportunistic infection, as a result of stasis of the lymphatic fluid in the lymphatic system of the breast. This stasis of fluid allows bacteria to grow profusely, giving rise to infection by Staphylococcus Aureus and Streptococcus. This can also happen when bacteria gain entry through cuts or cracks in case of skin conditions like Dermatitis.
  • Patients who undergo a surgical procedure such as Breast augmentation are also prone to develop Cellulitis.
  • Another type of cellulitis named, “Delayed-onset Breast Cellulitis” is common in breast cancer patients who undergo radiotherapy. This usually occurs 3 to 5 months after radiotherapy.

Risk factors

  • Females who recently had a surgical procedure done.
  • Patients with breast cancer undergoing radiotherapy.
  • Obese women with larger breasts.


If the bacterial cellulitis is not promptly treated this can develop into life-threatening conditions, such as:

  • Persistent infection may develop into septicemia.
  • Lymphedema.

Breast Cellulitis and inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammatory Breast Cancer can be caused due to Cellulitis and vice versa and have almost similar symptoms. Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that has a characteristic fever and symptoms of toxicity, however, Inflammatory Breast Cancer does not present with fever. If your symptoms persist longer than a period of 4 months you should consult your doctor and ask for a skin biopsy to rule out the occurrence of this rare type of cancer.


  • Diagnosis is usually made on the basis of breast examination which shows inflamed, red breast. However, your doctor might suggest getting a Breast Ultrasound to confirm the cellulitis by seeing increased vascularity, hyperechoic breast fat, and to differentiate it from Breast Abscess by looking for fluid collection which is definitive of an abscess.
  • Another finding on blood complete picture is leukocytosis which occurs as a response to bacterial infection by the immune system of the body.
  • A skin biopsy is suggested in patients with a history of breast cancer to rule out reoccurrence.


  • Antibacterial to resolve the infection.
  • Painkiller for breast pain.
  • Over the counter, ointments are also helpful.
  • Symptomatic treatment is basically done for all the symptoms.

Home Remedies

  • Keep the area dry and free of moisture sweat.
  • Keep the area clean.
  • Wear a soft cotton bra or a vest.
  • In case of cuts and cracks apply ointments.
  • Boost your immunity.

When to consult a doctor?

In most cases, an improvement in symptoms is seen within a couple of days. Therefore, if the infection does not begin to resolve after a few days of medication, you should consult your doctor and change your course of treatment. In patients with a history of Breast Cancer, there are higher chances of reoccurrence of cellulitis due to a suppressed immune system. These patients should talk to their doctor about boosting their immunity.


Does Breast Cellulitis always develop into Inflammatory Breast Cancer?

No, Inflammatory Breast Cancer is a rare type of cancer and has symptoms similar to Cellulitis. It is only safe to diagnose your case.

Are Breast Cellulitis and a Breast Abscess same?

No, Cellulitis affects the dermis and subcutaneous tissue and there is no collection of fluid in a pocket, unlike an Abscess.

How common is breast cellulitis?

Cellulitis occurs in every 1 in 20 women who undergo breast surgery and around 5 to 10% of women who have radiotherapy for Breast Cancer develop Delayed-onset onset Breast Cellulitis.

What skin conditions can lead to Cellulitis in the Breast?

Atopic dermatitis is the most common skin condition which if persistent can develop into Breast Cellulitis.