As you see in the picture here, major portion of a breast is made up of fat tissue (breast tissue). As the fluids in this region changes, the size of the breast changes accordingly. Increase in size of breast is caused by several other factors but typically, increase in fluids in the breast tissue results in swelling of the breasts.
Common symptoms of breast swelling include:
- Increase in the size of the breasts – this should be obviously noticeable
- Veins on the breasts may become visible as the skin stretches
- Tenderness of breasts
- Uncomfortable feeling extending till the arm pits
- Changes in the skin on or around the breasts
- Breasts may feel warmer for some women
In some cases, lumps may also be found along with breast swelling. Though some breast lumps are not harmful, it is better that you see your gynaecologist and get them checked/tested to make sure that they are not cancerous
Causes of breast swelling
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a common cause of breast swelling. As the estrogen levels increase in a woman’s body before the start of her periods, the milk glands and breast tissues can swell due to water retention. However as the periods end, the size of breasts should return to normal.
- Though less likely, inflammatory breast cancer can also cause breast swelling. This can cause redness and swelling of breast tissue.
- Pregnancy – After one to two weeks of conception, breasts may swell due to the hormonal changes in the body
- Medication – If you are on any hormonal therapy to treat some other medical problem, the breasts may swell. Talk to your doctor if this happens.
- Consuming food and drinks with high amounts of caffeine or salt
- After child delivery, breasts can swell
- Infection of breasts can lead to breast swelling
- Fibrocystic Breast Changes – nearly half of women experience this at least once during their lifetime. A non cancerous condition that can cause swelling of breasts.
When should you see your gynaecologist if your breasts are swollen?
Premenstrual beast swelling is common. If the swelling doesn’t ease after your periods and if they continue to hurt or bother you with discomfort, you need to see your gynaecologist. Also, you will need to see your gynaecologist if your breast swelling is accompanied by:
- Cracking of your nipple or if you find any discharge from your nipple.
- If the skin on your breasts starts to dimple or wrinkle
- If the colour of our breast skin or nipple changes
- If you are breast feeding and if the flow of milk is being obstructed
Diagnosing breast swelling by your gynaecologist
Basically there are two types of examinations done to diagnose breast swelling. Your gynaecologist will start with questions like from when and what are the symptoms that you are seeing. He/she will then do a physical examination to check for lumps in your breasts or nipples.
If your doctor is not able to find any obvious signs / causes of the problem, you may be asked to go for a mammogram or ultra sound imaging to look for problems inside the breasts.
Treatment for breast swelling
If the breast swelling is caused due to infection, antibiotics will be prescribed. You will also need to know the reason for infection so that you can avoid getting infected again.
If the swelling is due to unusual hormonal changes, you may be put on hormone therapy for some time. If the swelling is being caused due to the contraceptives that you are taking, your gynaecologist may change the prescription.
In worst case scenario, if you are diagnosed with breast cancer, a treatment plan will be prepared by your doctor that may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery etc.
Is it necessary that you get screened for breast cancer regularly?
Doctors and other medical experts suggest getting your breast screened regularly by your gynaecologist. They also recommend going for mammogram or ultra sound screening every year or every other year depending on your age and the risk factors associated with your lifestyle or based on your medical history and the medications that you are taking.
How to prevent breast swelling?
- Eating nutritious foods including vegetables, fruits, nuts etc.
- Cutting down on caffeine, alcohol, sodas, sugary drinks and quitting smoking
- Reduce salt consumption and increase water intake.