Breast abscess

A breast abscess is a painful build-up of pus in the breast caused by an infection. It mainly affects women who are breastfeeding. It's not usually serious, but it needs treatment in hospital.

Check if you have a breast abscess

Symptoms of a breast abscess may include:

You’re more likely to have a breast abscess if you have recently had a breast infection (mastitis) or if you’ve had a breast abscess before.

If you're not sure it's a breast abscess

Other conditions can make your breast sore and swollen:

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if you have:

  • a painful, warm or red breast
  • a lump or swelling in your breast

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

What happens at your GP appointment for a breast abscess

If the GP thinks you have a breast abscess, they will refer you to hospital for an ultrasound scan of your breast to check for an abscess.

The GP may give you antibiotics first if they think you have a breast infection.


Go back to the GP if your symptoms do not start to improve within 2 days of starting antibiotics.

Treatment for a breast abscess

You’ll need to go to hospital to have treatment for a breast abscess.

Treatment involves the pus being drained from the abscess with either:

You'll be given a local anaesthetic before the pus is drained so you do not feel any pain. You can usually go home the same day and may be given antibiotics to take at home.

The abscess should heal completely in a few days or weeks.

Breastfeeding during treatment

Continue feeding with both breasts if you can. This will not harm your baby and can help your breast heal.

Try expressing milk from your breasts with your hand or a breast pump if breastfeeding is too painful.

Causes of a breast abscess

A breast abscess can form if you have a breast infection (called mastitis) and it's not treated quickly.

You're more likely to get mastitis if you are breastfeeding. You can get it if you're not breastfeeding, but this is less common.

Getting treatment for mastitis as soon as possible can help reduce the risk of getting an abscess.

Page last reviewed: 14 June 2023
Next review due: 14 June 2026