Updated: May 8
Have you noticed if your bust is heavier than usual or seems larger? Does the skin texture feel different or tender? Perhaps there might even be hardened lumps in your breast tissue? Any of these symptoms might sound like a cause for concern or a sign of cancer—but not necessarily. There are several reasons why your bust can become swollen. Oftentimes, these changes are the result of normal bodily functions. Here are some of the more common causes of swollen busts.
1. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
The changing hormonal levels in your body can cause your breast ducts and milk glands to become enlarged. It may also result in water retention, which can increase bust swelling.
A swollen bust is sometimes one of the earlier signs of pregnancy. Your bust can begin to swell as early as one to two weeks after conception as a result of hormonal changes. This can cause your bust to feel heavy, achy, and tender in addition to appearing larger than usual.
3. Side Effects of Medication
Certain medications that alter your hormonal levels can also result in swollen busts. Fluctuations in either oestrogen or progesterone levels, in particular, can cause fluid retention in your breasts, making them feel heavy. Medications can include birth control pills and fertility treatment.
Hormones also play a part in getting your bust ready to produce milk. If you are currently breastfeeding your little one, you are probably no stranger to the feeling of full, heavy breasts and sore nipples. But sometimes this full, heavy feeling can progress into 'engorgement'. Breast engorgement occurs when your breasts feel extremely full with blood and milk until they feel painful and hard due to increased blood flow, lymph fluids, and milk production which can start a few days after childbirth.
Breast infections, known as mastitis, can occur in those who are breastfeeding. Mastitis can cause inflammation, leading to swelling and feelings of heaviness in the affected breast. This happens when a milk duct becomes blocked, or when bacteria from your skin or your baby’s mouth enter your breast through your nipple, which then leads to an infection of your milk ducts. In addition to becoming swollen, your bust can become tender, warm to the touch, painful, have a burning sensation, or even form a lump in the breast or thickening of breast tissue.
6. Fibrocystic breast changes
Fibrocystic breast disease, commonly called fibrocystic breasts or fibrocystic change, is a condition in which you develop non-cancerous lumps in your breast and thickening of your breast tissue. The lumps aren’t harmful or dangerous, tend to fluctuate in size and are usually movable. Though, the lumps may be more fixed in one place if there’s a lot of fibrous tissue in your breasts.
7. Inflammatory breast cancer
There are different types of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer can cause your bust to swell due to blocked lymph vessels. It also can cause tenderness in your breasts or for them to appear bruised or pitted, like an orange peel. Tumours in your breasts can manifest as hard and painful lumps.
When to Worry About Bust Swelling?
As hormones play a big role in the development of bust tissue and the swelling that can develop from it, most causes of swollen busts will go away on their own with time, medications, or lifestyle changes. However, if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, schedule an appointment with a doctor for an evaluation and diagnosis:
discharge from your nipples
New or changing lumps in the breasts
Tender/swollen lymph nodes in the armpit
Swelling: Especially if combined with redness, tenderness, and breasts feeling hot to the touch
New or changing lumps in the breasts
Discharge from the nipple