What is Breast Cellulitis?

breast cellulitis

Breast cellulitis is a bacterial infection that affects the deep layers of the skin in the breast area. Bacterial penetration can occur through breaches in the skin.

More often, this condition is the result of complications, either from cancer conservative medical treatment or surgery. Symptoms can include redness, swelling, and tenderness of the breasts. This condition can quickly develop.


Common Causes

Like all forms of cellulitis, a cut in the skin can cause the condition by allowing bacteria to enter the skin barrier. In the particular case of breast cellulitis, other causes are more frequently involved.

Indeed, the most common causes of breast cellulitis are complications from radiation and conservative surgical therapies for breast cancer; typically, these treatments increase the likelihood of infection by weakening the immune system.

The condition can also result from complications of cosmetic surgery such as breast augmentation or reduction. This complication is, at least in part, preventable with good preoperative hygiene. Although questionable, the use of antibiotics as a precaution before surgery, can be recommended if the individual is highly prone to infections.


Signs & Symptoms of Breast Cellulitis

The affected area will generally be red and tender to touch. Additionally, the infection may cause pain upon touch. There may also be a prominent wound in the breast area.

breast infection

Another common symptom is a rash that may get progressively worse. Red streaks are a common sign of the infection progressing towards the lymph glands.

Without treatment, a potentially fatal blood infection can occur.



It is essential to seek immediate medical help upon presentation of any of these symptoms. Any sudden changes in your breast require inspection.

The condition can rapidly deteriorate. Additionally, it can cause serious complications.

breast cellulitis picture

Since other conditions can mimic breast cellulitis, a clinician will need to confirm the presence of a bacterial infection. Therefore, a physical exam by a medical professional is required.

Additionally, a blood test can establish the presence of breast cellulitis. Any bite or cut on the breast requires immediate attention. Even the smallest cuts, can make the skin vulnerable to infection.


Treatment of Breast Cellulitis

The typical treatment for breast cellulitis is a course of antibiotics. A typical course takes around 7-10 days. This amount of time allows the condition to clear up completely.

Following the specific instructions given by your doctor is crucial. Symptoms generally start to improve within a few days of starting the course. A clear-up of symptoms doesn’t mean you can stop taking the medication. A doctor will usually recall you after a week to check that the infection is entirely gone.

Pain relievers can help manage the discomfort of the condition. They are generally available over the counter. However, it is essential to consult a doctor before taking any pain medication.

Oral antibiotics usually work well for most infections. However, some people may not respond well to them. In these rare cases, the medication is given intravenously in a hospital.

Image credit: DepositPhotos.com

Last article update: 9/10/2019

Medically reviewed by Dr. Thouria Bensaoula on Sept 06, 2019.