Is Breast Swelling a Sign of Cancer?
Published July 26, 2021
Female breasts are composed of four distinct types of tissue:
- fat tissue
- milk ducts
- connective tissue
The fluid volume of fat (adipose) tissue tends to fluctuate, resulting in breast swelling and tenderness. It may also be caused by other changes in your breast tissue.
Furthermore, when you see changes in your breasts, it’s only normal to be concerned. However, bear in mind that breast changes are a natural aspect of the female anatomy. Here’s an overview of what breast swelling is, its symptoms, possible causes, and more.
Understanding What Breast Swelling Is
Breast swelling and pain are common in the second half of the menstrual cycle for practically all women. It can range from minor to severe during the premenstrual phase of your cycle.
The enlargement of the milk ducts in the breast occurs due to an increase in estrogen production at various times of your menstrual cycle. Estrogen production typically peaks right before the midpoint of your cycle. Progesterone –– which peaks around day 21 of a 28-day cycle –– stimulates the growth of your breast lobules or the “milk glands.”
You may experience intermittent or chronic breast swelling, as well as soreness and pain throughout this time. Additionally, the texture of your breast tissue may change. Some women may experience breasts that are thick and harsh to the touch.
Common Signs and Symptoms
Breast swelling may result in apparent changes. For instance, your breasts may noticeably increase in size. In addition, breast veins may become more prominent as swelling draws them closer to your skin.
Other symptoms may include the following:
- Heaviness feeling in your breast
- discomfort or tenderness around your breast and sometimes up into your armpit
- changes to the feel of the skin on and around your breasts
Your breasts may feel warmer or almost hot to the touch in some situations. In addition, swelling of breasts may sometimes be accompanied by hardened breast lumps. While this is not necessarily concerning, it could be an indication of breast cancer.
Possible Causes of Breast Swelling
1. Side Effects of Medication
Certain drugs may have adverse effects on the breast. Hormonal medications such as birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, and fertility treatments are the most prevalent sources.
These types of medications affect your hormone levels in a variety of ways. Fluctuations in your estrogen or progesterone levels might result in breast fluid retention, making them feel heavy.
Certain antidepressant medications have also been linked to breast symptoms, specifically pain. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) –– like sertraline (Zoloft) and citalopram (Celexa) –– are examples of these.
Breast infections, often known as mastitis, are most prevalent in breastfeeding mothers. Mastitis can induce inflammation in the affected breast, resulting in swelling and a sense of heaviness.
It typically occurs when milk becomes trapped in the breast, allowing germs to develop uncontrollably. This can occur as a result of a blocked milk duct or as a result of bacteria from your skin or your infant’s mouth entering your breast via your nipple.
3. Fibrocystic Breast Changes
Fibrocystic breast changes are widespread. This noncancerous condition can manifest itself in various ways in the breasts, including water retention in the breast tissue. As a result, your breasts will feel heavier than usual as they swell and fill with fluid.
These alterations can occur in either breast or both of them. They may happen every month at a specific point in your cycle or exhibit no discernible pattern. However, in some circumstances, you may experience persistent symptoms.
Swelling and tenderness of breasts frequently occur monthly and are clearly related to your menstrual cycle. This condition is referred to as cyclical breast pain.
Your estrogen and progesterone levels can change significantly in the days preceding your menstrual period. They both contribute to the expansion of the ducts and glands in the breast. Additionally, they cause your breasts to retain water, resulting in them becoming heavy and painful.
Typically, both breasts are affected by these types of cyclical breast changes. Symptoms may worsen in the two weeks preceding your menstruation and then subside.
Swelling of the breasts is occasionally one of the first signs of pregnancy. Around one to two weeks following conception, your breasts may begin to swell.
Swelling develops as a result of hormonal changes in your body. They have been known to make the breasts feel heavy, achy, and painful. Additionally, your breasts may appear larger than usual.
If you experience breast enlargement and heaviness in conjunction with a missed period, you may wish to consider a pregnancy test.
If you’re pregnant, your breasts will expand until your due date and possibly beyond. They may grow considerably heavier throughout the last stretch of your pregnancy as your body prepares for breastfeeding.
If you’re breastfeeding, you’re undoubtedly becoming accustomed to the sensation of swollen, heavy breasts and aching nipples. Of course, breastfeeding is difficult at any time, but it can be more difficult when you have milk oversupply.
The sensation of heaviness and fullness can occasionally develop into a condition known as engorgement. It occurs when an abnormal amount of milk accumulates in the breast. It can be excruciatingly uncomfortable.
Engorgement is most frequently experienced during the first week of nursing, but it can occur at any time. Moreover, it is more likely to occur if you are not feeding or pumping your infant frequently enough.
7. Inflammatory Breast Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, inflammatory breast cancer is extremely rare, accounting for only around 1% to 5% of all breast cancers. It is a highly aggressive cancer that frequently manifests rapidly. As a result, you’re likely to have additional symptoms.
These types of breast cancer cause breast tissue to become red and swollen. Occasionally, the breasts can grow significantly in size and weight in a couple of weeks.
When To See A Doctor
While PMS-related breast swelling is frequent, it should not become so unbearable that it interferes with regular activities. Make an appointment with your doctor if you feel abnormally painful swelling of the breast during your menstrual cycle.
Additionally, you should seek medical attention if you suffer swelling of breasts in conjunction with any of the following symptoms:
- nipple cracking
- color changes in your nipple or the skin on your breast
- puckering or dimpling of the skin on your breast
- severe swelling breasts (preventing breast milk from coming out after giving birth)
- a hardened lump in breast tissue that stays during your menstrual cycle
- Breast sore that doesn’t heal
- unexpected discharge from your nipple
Consult your doctor if you encounter any other symptoms that do not improve with time. When in doubt, inquire about your breast swelling symptoms with them.
About The Author
As a professional writer at many renowned websites Krizzia Paolyn has covered a wide range of topics in many industries. Her knack for uncovering important truths and conducting thorough research on each topic she writes about has helped thousands of people across the world.