Mastitis is the medical term for inflammation of the breast tissue. It is typically caused by an infection in the milk ducts or breast tissue, and symptoms generally include pain, swelling, and redness of the breast. Most people develop mastitis in just one breast, but it is possible to develop swelling in both. Mastitis rarely occurs in men.
Breast tissue infections usually occur in breastfeeding women, within three months after they give birth. However, the condition may develop at any point during breastfeeding.
Infections of the breast tissue are effectively treated with antibiotics that are usually taken for 10-14 days. Mothers with mastitis can safely continue breastfeeding because the infection cannot be passed through the breast milk. In fact, keeping the milk flowing in the infected breast helps get rid of the infection. If the nipples are too painful to continue breastfeeding, a breast pump may be used to empty the breast. However, some antibiotics may be harmful for nursing infants. Patients should ask their doctors if they can continue breastfeeding while taking medications.
In rare cases, mastitis may be a symptom of a rare form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer. Patients with this type of cancer typically receive chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or surgery. About 50% of patients diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer survive five years after diagnosis, and about 33% survive 10 years or more after diagnosis.
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