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Discovering a bruise on your breast can be unsettling. According to the American Cancer Society, while skin discoloration in the breast area can be a symptom of inflammatory breast cancer, this type of cancer is rare, accounting for only 1–5% of all breast cancers . More commonly, a breast bruise, which may present as blue, green, or purple discoloration, is due to benign causes such as physical trauma or injury. Factors like coagulopathy disorders or the use of anticoagulant medications can also contribute to bruising, as noted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Additionally, ill-fitting bras are a less serious but notable cause of bruising, emphasizing the importance of proper fit and support. Understanding these causes can provide reassurance and guide women in seeking appropriate care for a bruise on the breast.
One type of breast cancer that may cause breast bruise is inflammatory breast cancer. It usually occurs when cancer cells cause blockage in the lymph nodes of the breast. This type of cancer occurs very rarely. Symptoms include enlargement of the affected breast, skin discoloration that ranges from red to purple, appearance of dimples in the skin, and tenderness or pain. The breast may also feel warm to the touch, and the nipple may be flattened.
Trauma or injury to the breast can also lead to the formation of a breast bruise. It may be due to blunt trauma in the area, accidents, or fall. These injuries in the chest area may also result in a fractured rib, which needs to be evaluated by a physician. Depending on the severity of the trauma, the breast bruise can vary in size. Affected patients may observe skin discolorations and tenderness or pain in the affected breast area.
Women who wear ill-fitting bras can often observe discoloration in the skin of both breasts after taking their bras off. This may sometimes alarm them. This type of bruise, however, may disappear if use of such bra is discontinued.
Anticoagulant medications are drugs used to prevent the formation of blood clots in the body. They are also called blood thinners. Use of these drugs can frequently result in bleeding, which is why most patients taking them are monitored regularly. Bleeding under the skin can occur, not only over the breast area, but also in other parts of the body.
Patients suffering from coagulopathy disorders, also known as bleeding disorders, often develop excessive bruising in different parts of the body. Causes include heredity, liver disease, deficiency in Vitamin K, and use of anticoagulant medications. Women who find a breast bruise upon self-inspection are often urged to see their gynecologists or family physicians for evaluation.
Who’s Most at Risk for a Breast Bruise?
Although any woman can fall victim to a breast bruise, some women might be more susceptible than others. For example, if you play sports, have a vitamin deficiency, or take certain medications, you might be more prone to easy bruising.
Athletes who play sports such as rugby, basketball, or football have a higher risk for breast trauma since those sports can involve physical contact. Softball, lacrosse, and baseball also carry similar risks, as it’s not uncommon for a player to get hit with a ball
Patients who suffer from anemia are also more susceptible to bruising. For example, a small bump that might go unnoticed by someone else could lead to significant bruising if you’re iron-deficient. Vitamin K and vitamin C deficiencies can also lead to bruising. If you think your breast bruise might indicate a deficiency, contact your doctor for a consultation.
In addition to the blood thinners mentioned previously, other common medications can lead to breast bruising. For example, aspirin and ibuprofen make it difficult for your body to form a clot if you get injured. In addition, certain antibiotics and steroids can make your skin more fragile. In both cases, you’re likely to develop a bruise where someone else wouldn’t.
How To Treat a Breast Trauma
More often than not, time is the only thing that effectively treats a breast bruise. In most cases, you won’t need to seek medical help. However, depending on how you got the bruise, you can do a few things to lessen the pain.
If the bruise is due to an injury, you should put a cold compress on the area immediately. These are the benefits of a cold compress:
- Helps prevent swelling
- Decrease bruising
- Numb the pain somewhat
Ice the area for 15-20 minute intervals to avoid frostbite. Give your skin a rest before icing the area again.
You can take over-the-counter pain relievers if the pain is severe. However, stick with Tylenol whenever possible. Ibuprofen, Naproxen, and aspirin can cause your bruising to worsen.
If your pain doesn’t decrease or gets worse, you might want to seek medical attention. Although it’s unlikely, you could have a deeper injury than you initially thought.
Does Breastfeeding Cause Breast Bruises?
Nursing mothers can each attest to the pain that accompanies breastfeeding. The pain tends to be worse in the early days and when your baby is teething. Unfortunately, in some cases, breastfeeding can lead to bruising.
Although breast pain is more likely than a breast bruise, it’s still possible for your little one to leave a mark. For example, tiny teeth poking through can cause your blood vessels to break and cause a bruise. In addition, gnawing or extended nursing sessions can also lead to broken blood vessels.
If you become injured while breastfeeding and the pain is significant, contact your doctor immediately. Severe pain that doesn’t let up could indicate a more significant problem, such as mastitis or thrush. Both conditions could ultimately lead to an infection.
Can Breast Trauma Cause Cancer?
Breast cancer is a genuine concern for women everywhere, and for good reason. You read above that breast cancer can cause bruising in some cases. But what about the opposite? Can bruising or breast trauma lead to breast cancer?
Fortunately, there’s no indication that a bad bruise will cause breast cancer. Although you might feel lumps, they’re likely just the result of fat necrosis. Fat necrosis happens when an injury causes fatty tissue to scar. However, if you’re concerned there might be a larger problem, you should always contact your doctor.
How To Prevent a Breast Bruise
In many cases, a breast bruise is simply a product of circumstance. However, you can do a few things to decrease your chances of getting a breast bruise.
Athletes could consider wearing some form of chest protection. However, if that’s not practical or possible, keep ice packs on hand so you can apply ice right away. Ice is the most efficient way to keep swelling down if you receive an injury.
You should also invest in supportive bras that fit correctly. Since bras can lead to bruising, you want to make sure you’re purchasing ones that suit your body and aren’t uncomfortable. Many stores offer a free fitting if you need assistance.