Breast Swelling – Symptoms, Causes, and Management

Breast swelling is a common complaint experienced by women all over the world. This can occur due to causes as harmless as pregnancy to serious underlying problems such as necrosis and an abscess. The pain due to breast swelling is mostly dull, heavy, and aching, duration only depends upon the underlying cause. Whereas, breast swelling can be rarely associated with life-threatening conditions such as breast tumors or cancer.

Symptoms of breast swelling

Other than pain, some common symptoms may accompany, depending upon the underlying condition or disorder. Some of these are given:

  • Lumps in fibrocystic breast
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • Cracks on the skin
  • Fever and rash in case of a breast abscess
  • Slight rise in temperature of the breast
  • Pain radiating towards the armpit or arm.

Causes of breast swelling

Swelling and tenderness of the breast can be associated with several underlying conditions, mentioned below are some of the possible causes:

  • Swelling in the breast is commonly experienced by women in the second half of the menstrual cycle. The swelling is due to the enlargement of milk ducts in the breast. The swelling takes place in response to estrogen which reaches its peak level just before the middle of the cycle.
  • Women who take contraceptive pills also experience swelling and tenderness as a side effect.
  • Breast swelling is a common complaint by women who are on hormonal replacement therapy.
  • Focal swelling in the breast along with severe pain and tenderness is seen in the abscess, which develops as an untreated case of mastitis.
  • Fibrocystic breast changes lead to the formation of lumps that cause the breast to appear swollen and feel tender upon touching.
  • Necrosis of fat tissue in the breast is also one cause of tenderness and swelling.
  • Some benign tumors like fibroadenomas and papillomas also cause swelling.
  • Very rarely swelling is associated with breast cancer. This too only occurs in the later stages of the disease and is accompanied by several other serious symptoms.

Risk factors

  • Pregnant women
  • Females taking contraceptive pills
  • Females on hormonal replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Women who are taking SSRIs.

Management of breast swelling


To diagnose the exact cause of swelling your doctor will ask you several questions that will help him formulate a differential diagnosis. Confirmation of the diagnosis is mostly done by clinical examination, ultrasound, or any other investigation, depending upon the findings.


A breast swelling can be prevented by taking a few measures;

  • Wear a properly fitted bra
  • Lactating females should empty their breasts more frequently 
  • Make sure the attachment is proper 
  • Use breast pumps for frequent breast emptying 
  • Do not stop breastfeeding.


  • For pain and over-the-counter painkiller can be taken
  • For other symptoms, it is important to treat the cause.

Home remedies

  • Wear a properly fitted bra
  • Use a heating pad to relieve inflammation
  • Evening primrose oil has excellent benefits
  • If you are lactating, empty your breasts as frequently as possible
  • Do not stop breastfeeding
  • Keep the area dry and clean.

When to consult a doctor?

If you begin to experience any of the following symptoms, you should book an appointment with your doctor as early as possible:

  • Swelling is increasing gradually in intensity
  • The appearance of new lumps
  • Any sort of discharge from your nipples
  • General fatigue and lethargy
  • Severe pain and burning during breastfeeding.


How long would the breast swelling last?

The duration entirely depends upon the underlying cause. Most of the time, the swelling subsides within a few days.

Does the swelling and tenderness in my breast indicate a tumor?

No, pain and swelling are very really associated with serious conditions such as tumors and cancer.

Can swelling and pain in my breast be a side effect of any medication I am using?

Yes, several medications such as estrogen-containing pills and antidepressants particularly SSRIs are known to have swollen and tender breasts as an adverse effect.

Last medically reviewed on September 22, 2022.