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Traumatic Breast Injuries: Should You See a Doctor?

What causes a breast injury?

Fast facts

  1. A breast injury is usually caused by blunt trauma or forceful injury.
  2. Most breast injuries aren’t anything to worry about and their symptoms clear in a few days.
  3. Breast injuries due to sudden seatbelt pressure during a car accident or fast stop should be looked at by a doctor.

A breast injury can result in breast contusion (bruises), pain, and tenderness. These symptoms usually heal on their own after a few days. Causes of breast injury may include:

  • bumping into something hard
  • being elbowed or hit while playing sports
  • running or other repetitive movement of the breast without a supportive bra
  • using a breast pump
  • a fall or blow to the breast
  • wearing tight clothing often

Read on to learn more about symptoms, treatment options, and cancer risk.

Read more: Why is there a yellow bruise on my breast? »

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Symptoms

Why do breast injury symptoms happen or develop?

An injury to your breast is similar to an injury to any other part of your body. Breast injuries are your body’s reaction to:

  • damage to the fatty tissue
  • direct impact, like from a car accident
  • physical contact while participating in sports
  • damage to Cooper ligaments from repetitive motion and stretching, like from running without a proper amount of support
  • surgery
Symptom What to know
Pain and tenderness This usually occurs at the time of the injury but can also appear a few days after.
Bruising (breast contusion) Bruising and swelling can also make the injured breast look larger than normal.
Fat necrosis or lumps Damaged breast tissue can cause fat necrosis. This is a noncancerous lump that’s common after breast injuries or surgery. You may notice the skin is red, dimpled, or bruised. It may or may not be painful.
Hematoma A hematoma is an area of blood buildup where the trauma occurred. This leaves a discolored area similar to a bruise on your skin. A hematoma may take up to 10 days to be visible.
 

Treatment

How to treat a breast trauma

Most of the time, breast injury and inflammation can be treated at home.

Do this
  • Gently apply a cold pack.
  • In the case of a hematoma, apply a hot compress.
  • Wear a comfortable bra to support the injured breast.

If you need help with managing pain, see your doctor. They can advise you on the best methods of pain control for you. You can usually ease pain from a traumatic injury with a pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil). However, if your pain is from surgery or if you have certain medical conditions, you should not take pain relievers. Talk to your doctor about other options for pain management instead.

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Q&A: Is it cancer?

Breast injuries and breast cancer

  • Can a breast injury cause breast cancer?
  • The general consensus is that breast trauma may lead to a benign breast lump, but it does not lead to breast cancer. Some research proposes an association, but no direct link has ever been truly established.

    - Michael Weber, MD
  • Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

What does cause breast cancer?

The exact cause of breast cancer is not known. However, there are some known risk factors. These risk factors include:

  • older age
  • being a woman
  • having had breast cancer previously
  • radiation therapy to your chest in your youth
  • being obese
  • never becoming pregnant
  • having family members with certain types of breast cancer
  • having children late or not at all
  • having menstrual periods start early in life
  • using combination (estrogen and progesterone) hormone therapy

These are only risk factors. They are not necessarily causes of breast cancer. It is a good idea to talk to a medical professional to learn more about how to decrease your risk.

Read more: Breast cancer symptoms »

Risks

What risks come with a breast injury?

Breast injury or pain does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer, but a breast injury can increase your risk of:

  • increased pain during breastfeeding
  • a more difficult diagnosis or trouble with screening results
  • significant bleeding caused by hematoma, in the case of a seat belt injury

Injuries can affect how your doctors read your screening results. You should always let your doctor and mammography professionals know about any history of breast injury. This information will be useful in assessing your results.

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See a doctor

When to see a doctor for breast pain

Most breast injuries will heal over time. The pain will lessen and eventually stop.

However, you should follow up with a medical professional in certain cases. For example, follow up if your breast injury and pain has been caused by a significant trauma, such as a car accident. A doctor can make sure there is no significant bleeding. Also see a doctor if your pain increases or is uncomfortable, especially after breast surgery. If you feel a new lump in your breast that you have never noticed before and don’t know the cause of, see your doctor. It’s important to have a doctor confirm that a lump is noncancerous, even if it appears after an injury to your breast.

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Takeaway

The bottom line

If you know your breast was injured in the area of the lump, then it’s unlikely that it is cancer. Most breast injuries will heal on their own in a few days. Cold compresses can help with bruising and pain, but you should contact your doctor if:

  • the pain is uncomfortable
  • you feel a lump that hasn’t gone away
  • your injury was caused by a seatbelt in a car accident

Only a doctor can let you know if a lump is noncancerous or if you have significant bleeding.

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