6. Infection

Breast infections, known as mastitis, are most common among those who are breastfeeding. Mastitis can cause inflammation, leading to swelling and feelings of heaviness in the affected breast.

It tends to happen when milk becomes stuck in the breast, allowing bacteria to grow out of control. This can happen because of a blocked milk duct or when bacteria from your skin or your baby’s mouth enter your breast through your nipple.

Symptoms of mastitis include:

  • tenderness
  • breasts that are warm to the touch
  • swelling
  • pain or burning (can be constant or only while breastfeeding)
  • a lump in the breast or thickening of breast tissue
  • redness
  • sick, rundown feeling
  • fever

7. Inflammatory breast cancer

Heaviness usually isn’t a breast cancer symptom. The exception to this is inflammatory breast cancer. Still, it’s the least likely cause breast heaviness.

Inflammatory breast cancer is very rare, making up only about 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancers, according to the National Cancer InstituteTrusted Source. It’s an aggressive cancer that often comes on quickly. As a result, you’ll likely experience some other symptoms as well.

This type of breast cancer causes redness and swelling of the breast tissue. Sometimes the breast can increase dramatically in size and weight in a matter of weeks.

Other symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include:

  • swelling and redness covering a third or more of the breast
  • breast skin that looks bruised, purplish, or pink
  • breast skin that resembles an orange peel
  • burning or tenderness
  • nipple turning inward
  • swollen lymph nodes
Should I see a doctor?

It’s perfectly normal for your breasts to feel heavy from time to time, but it never hurts to get things checked out. If you’re worried it could be something serious, speaking with a doctor will definitely help.

Keeping track of how your breasts feel throughout the month may also provide some peace of mind if you find that the heaviness seems to occur the week or so before your period. If that’s the case, an over-the-counter pain reliever, like ibuprofen (Advil), should offer some relief.

But in some cases, it’s definitely best to make an appointment as soon as possible. Infections, for example, can only be treated with prescription antibiotics.

If you’re in pain, either constantly or intermittently, your doctor can help figure out the cause of your pain, whether its your menstrual cycle or something else. They can recommend medications that will help regulate your hormones or dosage adjustments that may work better than your current treatments.

If you’re taking an SSRI, your doctor may recommend switching to a different antidepressant with fewer side effects or adjusting your dosage.

If you’re having trouble breastfeeding, your best bet is to speak with a lactation consultant. They can advise you on how often to feed or pump each breast and how to be sure your breast empties. You can ask your doctor for a referral or search the International Association of Lactation Consultant Association’s directory.

Any new lump that doesn’t resolve on its own within a few weeks should be checked out by a doctor. It can be hard to tell the difference between a benign cyst and a cancerous tumor.

Fibrocystic breast changes can be alarming, and it isn’t possible for you to tell the difference between a cyst from a tumor. While cysts tend to be softer, more painful, and easier to move, that’s not always the case. Only a doctor can tell you for sure.

Warning signs

Keep in mind that breast heaviness alone is very rarely a sign of a serious problem.

But if you notice the following symptoms, it’s best to see a doctor as soon as possible:

  • a hard, pain-free lump
  • redness or discoloration of your breast
  • pain or burning while breastfeeding
  • a fever
  • a flattening or inversion of the nipple
  • blood leaking from your nipples
  • severe fatigue or rundown feeling

As well, see a doctor if your family has a history of breast cancer or you’ve had breast surgery in the past.

All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
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