What causes breast swelling?

Breast swelling and tenderness is common for almost all women in the second half of their menstrual cycle. Breast swelling and tenderness in the premenstrual portion of your cycle can be mild to severe.

Milk ducts in the breast are enlarged by the increase of estrogen production during the menstrual cycle. Estrogen production generally reaches its peak just prior to the middle of your cycle. During this time, you may have intermittent or persistent breast fullness along with tenderness and pain. During pregnancy, breast swelling and tenderness may be quite pronounced.

Everyday causes of breast swelling

Everyday causes of breast swelling include:

  • Estrogen medications such as birth control pills
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Pregnancy

Benign causes of breast swelling

Breast swelling can also be caused by benign conditions including:

  • Abscess
  • Benign tumors such as intraductal papillomas and fibroadenomas
  • Duct ectasia (widening of the milk ducts)
  • Fat necrosis (damage to the fatty tissue of the breast)
  • Fibrocystic changes
  • Mastitis

Serious or life-threatening causes of breast swelling

In some cases, breast swelling and tenderness may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious condition. Potentially serious causes of breast swelling include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Widespread infection

Questions for diagnosing the cause of breast swelling

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your breast swelling including:

  • Does the breast swelling happen with every menstrual cycle?
  • Have you felt any lumps in your breasts?
  • Have you had any discharge from your nipples?
  • Are there any other associated symptoms?

What are the potential complications of breast swelling?

You may be able to decrease breast swelling and tenderness by lowering the fats in your diet, avoiding caffeine, trimming your salt intake a couple of weeks before your period starts, and maintaining a daily exercise schedule. However, if your breast swelling and tenderness is so severe that it restricts your ability to carry out your daily activities, seek the help of a health care professional.

Once the underlying cause of your breast swelling is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Absenteeism from work or school
  • Difficulty performing daily tasks
  • Inability to participate normally in activities
  • Inability to perform daily tasks
  • Severe discomfort or pain
INTRODUCTION

What is breast swelling?

Breast swelling and tenderness is common for almost all women in the second half of their menstrual cycle. Breast swelling and tenderness in the premenstrual portion of your cycle can be mild to severe.... Read more about breast swellingintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with breast swelling?

Breast swelling and tenderness may signify a noncancerous breast condition. Other symptoms will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.... Read more about breast swellingsymptoms

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.