Can Injury to the Breast Cause Cancer?

Vanessa Prowler, MD

You may have heard that trauma to the breasts causes breast cancer.  In actuality, there is no data to support a link between trauma and breast cancer.

Trauma to the breast can cause injury to the breast tissue and bleeding, which can form into a palpable mass. Bleeding can result in a hematoma, a collection of blood in the breast from the disruption of a blood vessel.  On a mammogram, this area of injury will eventually be represented by calcifications. Hematomas eventually get reabsorbed by your lymphatic system.

There are many different types of calcifications in the breast. Calcifications in the breast are not related to the calcium levels in your bloodstream. Some calcifications are normal, others represent atypical cells and early forms of breast cancer.  It is important to remember that calcifications from trauma do not turn into breast cancer.

Trauma to breast tissue can cause fat necrosis and oil cysts to form. Fat necrosis is scarring of the breast tissue, and can also be seen after surgery (breast reductions, fat grafting, lumpectomies), biopsies, and radiation. The scarring often leads to a firm mass. Fat necrosis may take months or years to form after injury. An oil cyst occurs from shear forces tearing the fatty component of the breast, with the resultant release of oily fluid that coalesces into a cyst. Neither of these entities increases the risk of breast cancer, but may lead to additional imaging at the time of your yearly mammogram, such as an ultrasound or biopsy.

Although you may develop a lump or mass after injury, this should not be ignored if it persists. You should talk to your doctor if breast pain or swelling following the injury gets worse instead of better; the skin becomes red, thickened, or hot to touch; the breast opens and begins to seep fluid; you have fevers/chills; and/or bloody discharge from the nipple.

About the Author

Vanessa Prowler, MD, is a Breast Surgeon with Lakeland Regional Health. To make an appointment with Dr. Prowler, call 863.603.6565.