Breast abscess


You should visit your GP if your breast is red and painful.

A breast abscess is usually a complication of mastitis (inflammation of the breast).

If you have mastitis, you may be prescribed antibiotics to treat the infection. Go back to see your GP if your symptoms don't improve after taking antibiotics. 

If your breast is still hard, red and painful after taking antibiotics, your GP may refer you to a specialist breast unit for further investigations.

A breast abscess diagnosis will usually be confirmed using an ultrasound scan. This type of scan uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the inside of your body.

Draining a breast abscess

Most abscesses can be successfully treated with antibiotics and needle drainage under local anaesthetic.

A local anaesthetic may be used to numb the area of skin surrounding the infected breast tissue.

Small abscesses can be drained using a needle and syringe. Ultrasound may be used to guide the needle into place.

In the past, an operation was often used to drain larger abscesses. However, as with smaller abscesses, ultrasound guided drainage is now commonly used.

Diagnosing breast problems

Always visit your GP if you notice any changes to your breasts, such as a breast lump or discharge (leaking fluid) from your nipples. In some cases, these types of symptoms could be a sign of breast cancer.

If you have a lump on your breast, you'll be referred to a breast clinic for an assessment, which may include an ultrasound scan and a mammogram (breast X-ray).


If you have a breast abscess and you're breastfeeding your baby, try to continue to breastfeed.

Your GP may recommend using a breast pump to express milk from the affected breast. You can safely continue to breastfeed your baby from the other breast as normal.

Read more about treating mastitis, breastfeeding and expressing and storing breast milk.

You can also ask your midwife, GP or health visitor for more advice about breastfeeding, or you can call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212.

Page last reviewed: 14/08/2014
Next review due: 14/08/2017