Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis
The majority of breast infections occur after the delivery of a baby when the breasts are actively producing milk. Breast infections can occur in breast-feeding mothers, or in women who have just delivered but have chosen not to breast-feed. Breast infections can occur in women who have not recently delivered, but it is not very common. Sometimes an infection will occur after injury to the breast. Breast infections are usually caused by common skin bacteria. Breast infections occur in approximately 2% of women in their postdelivery period. It often occurs during the 2–4 weeks after delivery.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Breast infections are easy to recognize. An area of the breast usually becomes red, warm, and very tender, and fever is present. You may feel more tired than usual as if you have the flu. It is important that the breast be examined and that treatment not be given over the phone, because occasionally an abscess will be present. An abscess has to be drained or it will worsen. It is important that you keep the follow-up visit to make sure all signs of the infection have resolved because occasionally an infection will hide a breast cancer. Also, a relatively rare type of breast cancer can cause symptoms that are similar to an infection. So if the infection does not clear up as expected, further evaluation should be considered.

Breast infections are treated with antibiotics for 10 days, and sometimes heat is recommended. A heating pad can be used or just wrung-out washcloths. If the breast infection has occurred in a breast-feeding woman, usually it is recommended that expression of milk be continued by pumping that breast. If a breast abscess has been diagnosed, the abscess will have to be opened and drained. Usually, some type of packing is placed into the abscess cavity to allow it to drain for a few days. You may need to return to the doctor’s office daily to have the packing changed for a few days.

The DOs
• Take all the antibiotics as prescribed.
• Keep your follow-up appointment. This is important because occasionally breast cancers can have symptoms similar to those of breast infections.

The DON’Ts
• Don’t stop the antibiotic early, even if all signs of the infection have gone away. If you stop the antibiotics early, the infection may return.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If the symptoms are not improving; namely, the redness is not decreasing, the fever is not going away, and the tenderness is not decreasing.
• If you are not tolerating the antibiotics or you are having allergic symptoms. Another antibiotic can be prescribed.