Can you get mastitis when you're not nursing?

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Yes, you can.

Thought this post might be TMI, but in the spirit of breast cancer awareness month, I'm going to share my story. Consider this a public service announcement.

A few weeks ago, I had a low grade fever, chills and felt pretty crummy. Too busy to notice a gynormous breast cyst forming -- until it became extremely painful -- I had a vague recollection of having something similar when I was nursing over a decade ago. Could it be mastitis? Immediately I began obsessively searching for an answer online. It is in fact very rare for women to get mastitis when they are not nursing with a few exceptions, including nipple piecing. Not an issue for me.

I made an appointment to see my ob/gyn a few days later. When I called, I told the nurse what I suspected. My doctor took a look and grabbed my file. After studying my mammogram report, he asked the nurse and the office manager to dial up the surgeon's office across the street at the Piedmont Hospital to set up an appointment right away. Just to be on the safe side.

They were able to see me immediately, so I headed on over to the hospital. Of course I was in a total panic. OMG, I might have breast cancer.

This cute girl in a lab coat walks in to examine me. You know you're getting old when doctors look like they're 25. In any event, one young doctor followed by another cruised around with the ultrasound wand. The cyst was full of fluid. Phew. A course of antibiotics was prescribed. Convo with second doctor:

Me: How could I possibly have mastitis?
MD: You mentioned you do pilates. Do you work out a lot?
Me: Yes.
MD: Do you wear a supportive sports bra?
Me: Yes.
MD: Do you usually change out of it after your workout.
Me: Rarely.
MD: We often see cases of mastitis among athletic women -- I think she was referring to marathon runners and triathletes, but I'll include myself in that category anyway -- who wear supportive sports bras. The friction can irritate the nipple, bacteria can enter and find a nice cozy breeding ground for infection.
Me: I guess I should change out of my athletic ware immediately after working out.
MD: That would be a good idea. I'd like to see you in a week.

Thankfully, I've fully recovered.

While we're on the subject of sports and health, here's another question. Is it possible to have an ACL tear after falling during a tennis match without major pain or swelling? Without hearing a "pop?" Just feeling like your knee is unstable and could possibly buckle from underneath you? Can it be possible even after you see an orthopedist who takes an X-ray, does a physical exam and tells you everything looks good and you can resume your normal activities, including tennis?

Yes, it is. I will have knee surgery before the end of the year.

Bottom line: When your body is sending your brain signals like "this feels vaguely familiar" or "this just doesn't feel right." Listen to it. It's also best to take advice from someone you trust like your pilates instructor who tells you there's no way/no how to play tennis on an unstable knee. Having had surgery on both knees, she knows what she's talking about.

I'm considering burning all of my sports bras and becoming a coach potato. I will, however, continue to get my annual mammogram. You should too. Not sure if you need one? Check out the American Cancer Society's guidelines for early detection for breast cancer. I used to work there.

Hope this PSA is helpful.


  1. Wow Maureen. You've gone through a lot! So sorry! Thanks for the PSA though!

  2. Wow Maureen. You've gone through a lot! So sorry! Thanks for the PSA though!

  3. Good sharing, Knee injuries is a common problem with many causes, from acute injuries to medical conditions. Normally people will believe surgery is the only way to relief knee pain, in fact, there are ways surgery free for relief knee pain. Example like using Unloading bracing technology, having ergo mattress etc. Visit at:


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