Breast Problems

You should familiarize yourself with the normal look and feel of your breasts so that you are able to detect changes in them (see Breast awareness). Although most breast problems are not serious, consult your doctor if you notice any changes. Minor conditions clearly related to breast-feeding usually respond well to simple treatments.

  • Are you breast-feeding a baby?

    • Breast-feeding

      Where is the problem?

      • In the breast

        What is the nature of your symptoms?

        • Small, hard lump in breast
          • Possible cause The lump may be caused by a blocked milk duct.

            Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor if the lump has not disappeared within a week or if the breast becomes painful or red.

        • Swollen, hard, and tender breasts
          • Possible cause Overfull breasts are common, especially when you first start breast-feeding and your milk supply has not yet adjusted to your baby’s needs (see Breast engorgement).

            Self-help Continuing to breast-feed your baby at regular intervals should solve this problem without special treatment. However, if you are concerned, consult your doctor or breast-feeding adviser.

        • Redness of part or all of one breast
          • Possible cause This may be a breast infection (see Mastitis) or possibly a breast abscess, particularly if you are also feeling unwell.

            Medical help See your doctor within 24 hours. In the meantime, continue to breast-feed from both of your breasts.

        • None of the above
          • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your breast problem from this chart, make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • On the nipple

        How is your nipple affected?

        • Tender only when feeding
          • Possible cause This problem may be a result of your baby not latching on to your nipple properly.

            Self-help Make sure your baby takes the nipple and the surrounding area into his or her mouth (see Avoiding cracked nipples). If you are still having problems when you use the correct feeding technique, consult your doctor or breast-feeding adviser.

        • Tender and painful all the time
          • Possible cause Your symptoms may be due to cracked nipples.

            Self-help Keep your nipples dry between feeds and use moisturizing cream. If the problem persists or makes breast-feeding difficult, consult your doctor or breast-feeding adviser.

    • Not breast-feeding

      What is the nature of your breast problem?

      • Single lump in the breast
        • Possible cause These symptoms may not have a serious cause (see Breast lumps, and Abnormal nipples). However, such changes must be investigated promptly to rule out the possibility of breast cancer.

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • A nipple has changed in appearance
        • Possible cause These symptoms may not have a serious cause (see Breast lumps, and Abnormal nipples). However, such changes must be investigated promptly to rule out the possibility of breast cancer.

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • Discharge from the nipple
        • Possible cause Discharge from the nipple may have various causes, including a local problem in the breast or a hormonal problem (see Nipple discharge).

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • Breasts feel tender

        Does either of the following apply?

        • Menstruation is due to start within 10 days
          • Possible cause Hormonal changes associated with the menstrual cycle often lead to premenstrual breast tenderness (see Premenstrual syndrome).

            Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor if you are concerned.

        • You might be pregnant
        • Neither
          • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your breast problem from this chart, make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • Breasts feel lumpy and hard

        Does either of the following apply?

        • Menstruation is due to start within 10 days
          • Possible cause Hormonal changes associated with the menstrual cycle often lead to premenstrual breast tenderness (see Premenstrual syndrome).

            Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor if you are concerned.

        • You might be pregnant
        • Neither
          • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your breast problem from this chart, make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • None of the above
        • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your breast problem from this chart, make an appointment to see your doctor.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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