Understanding Bruising on the Breast

Medically reviewed by Monica Bien, PA-C on September 23, 2016Written by Susan York Morris on June 13, 2016

Overview

A yellow bruise or discoloration on your breast isn’t likely to be of concern. When a bruise happens, capillaries, hair-thin blood vessels found throughout your body, are damaged. They leak a small amount of blood, which collects under the skin.

Bruises have distinct colors, which often follow a colorful pattern from the initial injury through healing. A bruise that has turned yellow is usually a sign that your body is healing from trauma. Rarely, a bruise may be a sign of a bleeding disorder or inflammatory breast cancer.

A bruise may turn different colors as it goes through the process of healing:

  • Initially, a bruise is red because the hemoglobin in your blood is full of oxygen and iron.
  • As hemoglobin breaks down, the oxygen and iron dissipate. The bruise then turns various shades of blue and purple.
  • The breakdown of hemoglobin produces biliverdin. It’s responsible for the green hue of the bruise that often appears a few days after the injury.
  • As your bruise fades, it takes on a yellow tint. This is because the biliverdin breaks down and produces bilirubin.

How did you get that bruise?

Trauma to soft tissue produces bruising. The trauma can occur due to something common and less serious, such as bumping into a cupboard door, or something more serious, like being injured in an accident.

Some people bruise more easily than others. If you’re older or have fair skin, you probably get more bruises. Vigorous exercise also can cause bruising. Occasionally, the appearance of unexplained bruises is the sign of a bleeding disorder. This is particularly true if you also get frequent nosebleeds or your gums bleed excessively.

If the bruising is isolated to your breast, there may be other causes for the bruise.

Bruising from breastfeeding

Some women experience bruising from breastfeeding. Usually, this is because the baby isn’t latching onto the breast correctly or taking enough of the breast into the mouth. Squeezing your breast too hard when positioning the breast in the baby’s mouth can also cause bruising. Occasionally, women report discomfort and bruising after using a breast pump that’s set too fast or if the suction is too strong.

Bruising after surgery

It’s normal to have bruising after surgery on your breast, such as surgery for cancer or cosmetic procedures. When the surgeon cuts through tissue, they damage blood vessels. Your doctor may cauterize your blood vessels, sealing them and reducing bleeding and bruising.

The amount of bruising after surgery varies per person. When you have surgery on your breast, you may notice that the bruise moves lower on your body over time, pulled by gravity.

Inflammatory breast cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rapidly spreading form of breast cancer in which cancer cells block the lymph vessels that drain lymphatic fluid in the breast. It’s rare, accounting for only about 1 percent of all types of breast cancers.

The symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer may include:

  • a red or pink discoloration of the skin
  • skin that becomes pitted or dimpled, much like an orange peel
  • pimple-like blemishes or a rash on the skin of the breast
  • swelling
  • tenderness
  • pain
  • itching
  • inversion of the nipple, meaning the nipple goes inward
  • skin of the breast that’s warm to the touch

Bruising isn’t a common symptom of inflammatory breast cancer. However, if the skin on your breast becomes discolored or has a bruise that doesn’t go away, it’s time to see your doctor.

When to call your doctor

Bruising may require a visit to your doctor if the following occurs:

  • A lump forms over the bruise.
  • You have significant swelling.
  • The bruise doesn’t go away after two weeks.
  • You get a number of unexplained bruises.
  • You also have bleeding from the nose or gums, or blood in your urine or stool.
  • You have symptoms of an infection, such as redness around the bruise, drainage of fluid, or pus.

Your doctor will do a physical exam and may recommend tests to help diagnose your bruising.

Treating bruises at home

Your doctor will give you instructions for reducing bruising, swelling, and pain. Unless your doctor advises something differently, the following do’s and don’ts will help promote healing.

Do's

  • Apply ice packs on the bruise during the first 24 hours after you get the bruise.
  • Sleep with the bruised area elevated at about a 45-degree angle.

Dont's

  • Don’t smoke. Smoking slows healing.
  • Don’t drink alcohol for at least 48 hours before and after any surgeries. Alcohol dilates blood vessels, which increases your risk for bleeding.
  • Don’t use heating pads or warm compresses. Heat opens blood vessels and can slow healing when you’re swollen and bruised.

Your bruise is bleeding under the skin. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Mortin), and naproxen, reduce pain and inflammation, but they also interfere with your blood’s ability to clot. This means you bleed more easily and it takes longer for bleeding to stop.

Outlook

A yellow bruise on your breast rarely signifies anything more than a small, passing injury. Your body will usually absorb the blood from your bruise within about two weeks.

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