Friday, April 29, 2011

What is a Galactocele?

Five months ago, I discovered a breast lump but chalked it up to something that would go away as I continued to nurse our then 7-month-old.  A few weeks after first noticing it, my milk backed up to almost my armpit.  I did all the recommended blocked-milk-duct treatments -- nurse frequently, massage, warm showers, etc.  Three days later, things were back to normal...except that lump was still there.

Two months after noticing it, I made a doctor's appointment to have it looked at since it was noticeably bigger.  It wasn't particularly painful but by the time I saw the doctor, it was the size of a kiwi.  Having scoured the internet for information on what I was dealing with, I felt prepared to meet with the doctor.  I explained to her that because it would slowly change in size (sometimes a tad smaller and sometimes bigger) that I didn't feel I needed to have a mammogram.

As functional nursing breasts, mammograms often show skewed results.  I wanted an ultrasound but was told that as per "procedure", I *had* to have a mammogram first before I would be allowed to have an ultrasound.  I didn't take to that very well so went looking for another option.

In the meantime, I went to see a massage therapist who specializes in breast issues.  She showed me a few techniques that I had pretty much already been doing on my own.

Following the advice of regarding mastitis issues (even though I never had mastitis), I was taking Hepar Sulphur and Phytolacca which seemed to help for a time to make the lump softer and more palpable.

Then, I caught a bad cold and it seems that my breast caught the sniffles too.  That was the point where the lump ballooned and it was totally obvious from the outside that something the size of an apple was pushing against the back of my areola.  It was very painful at this point...a constant pain.

I went to see a new doctor, an ob-gyn, who agreed that an ultrasound would be the best option.  It was scheduled for a couple days later.

A galactocele is something I had considered from my reading online and the ob-gyn I went to see thought that was likely what it was although she was concerned that it felt harder than she thought it should.  On an ultrasound, a galactocele resembles breast cancer but due to my age, the fact I was nursing, that the lump had gotten large fast and would sometimes be smaller, the radiologist was confident that I had a galactocele.  Many women have breast cysts; some dangerous and others insignificant.  A galactocele is a breast cyst that is filled with (you guessed it) milk.

The radiologist and my ob-gyn said that this was the largest galactocele they have ever come across.  They are rare in general and usually only happen once a mother ends breastfeeding.  I was (and am) still breastfeeding.

At the ultrasound, I did agree to let the radiologist drain it even though I had read that they can refill.  Indeed, 2 hours later, it was completely full again (and painful).  At that point, I was ready to give up breastfeeding and just cry out of frustration.  In case you are wondering about the draining, the radiologist uses a small needle to freeze the area (in my case at the beginning and half way through) and then uses a larger needle to aspirate the liquid (milk) from the galactocele.  Since it had been accumulating for almost 5 months, it looked like sticky white glue.  Pure white though so no infection.

Fast forward 2 weeks after the aspiration... I had been working on reducing breastfeeding on the affected side but that was creating its own problems since milk would start backing up again.  Then... I caught a flu-bug.  Who would ever be thankful to be that sick?  I was!!  I noticed immediately that the galactocele was shrinking.  What else could it do when I couldn't drink and ended up losing 4lbs over the course of 12 hours in the bathroom.

I had been talking to our children about thanking God in every situation because He is always in control.  He was using my dehydration to get this galactocele back under control.  (And, unbelievably, no one else got sick!  I don't even know where I picked it up since it's usually one of the kids who brings home an illness).

Yes, it is still there, but it is now the size of a ping-pong ball and not painful.  Sometimes there will be a brief shot of pain but it's usually over as quickly as it started.  I'm continuing with the Phytolacca and Hepar Sulphur, and I'm working on going 100% gluten-free.  I stopped drinking coffee and caffeinated teas about 3 months ago.  I am continuing to take Sunflower Lecithin as it helps keep milk 'thinner'.  Stress is what I believe created the galactocele to begin with so continually giving my concerns over to the Lord before they become worries is what I work at daily.

I'm very thankful that this is a galactocele and not breast cancer.  There is apparently no correlation between the two.

As I'm still breastfeeding and still have the galactocele, I will update about anything significant that changes or anything new I learn that could help someone else out in a similar situation.  If you are reading this and have any questions due to your own circumstances or have experienced this in the past and have suggestions, I'd love to hear from you.

March 2015 Update - HERE

August 2011 Update - HERE


  1. Hello! I can't tell you how relieved I was to come across your blog. I believe I have multiple galactoceles in both breasts and one golf ball size one in my armpit. My lactation consultant thought everything was plugged ducts, but now she believes they are galactoceles.

    I went to a breast surgeon yesterday to see if I could get them aspirated and nothing came out of the one in my underarm. She recommended I stop nursing cold turkey. I went home and cried and called my lactation consultant who told me to get a 2nd opinion, which I am doing tomorrow.

    I was thinking of trying to get the one in my armpit drained again, but from your blog and other articles I have read, it seems like they just fill up again. I was wondering if you had the choice of having it removed by a small incision and then suction?

    Again, thank you for posting your experience. I do not feel so stressed as before.


  2. Hi Elizabeth ~ Hopefully you are able to come back to this blog to read my response. Feel free to email me at michigan mom at gmail (adding all punctuation necessary for an email address).

    I haven't done well at updating my post but I really should get that done. I know I appreciated reading any (albeit few) first-hand accounts when I was searching for information online.

    I was given the option of having the entire "thing" removed but since I'm still nursing, the surgeon recommended waiting until I had weaned first. When I was told that, I was very torn. On one hand, how in the world would I quite breastfeeding, knowing that as I cut back on milk this huge lump in my breast would get larger and more painful? On the other hand, if I kept breastfeeding, how would I ever get rid of it? For the record, this is my fourth child and the previous 3 were nursed between 13 months up to 27 months so I wasn't ready to stop nursing unless I really had to. The lack of information on this topic is very frustrating.

    I too have cried so much and had a lot of stress surrounding this mass so foreign to my body. It's still in my breast but it isn't something I worry about anymore. Our son, now 13 months, is still nursing and I figure that in itself is likely keeping it more under control.

    I continue to take a Lecithin supplement (thought to decrease the stickiness of milk), Biotin (can't remember the reason now but read online about that being a good breast health supplement), and Boiron makes a homeopathic remedy called Phytolacca Decandra 30C (5 pellets per day).

    For about 5+ weeks now I've been on a gluten-free diet which has become easier as I get used to it but still not my ideal world. Gluten often acts in an inflammatory way in your body. Since all our children have reacted badly to dairy, I don't have much at all in my diet so I can't say whether that's a plus/minus to reducing a galactocele. I'm so used to watching what I eat as far as gluten goes that I'm apprehensive to add it back into my diet in case the galactocele gets larger again. I can say that I can't remember having that brief shooting pain in my breast since being gluten-free. There's no guarantee that's the reason, but I'll take it!


  3. .......cont'd.....

    Based on my experience, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that stress played (plays) a major role in galactoceles (as with many other breast cysts). When I was looking for the elusive answers to my questions, I often felt sick and worried about what was going on that no one seemed to be able to help me with. Other times, I just prayed it would go away on its own. Since its still there, I can only assume God has other reasons for not removing it in MY timing. It's still about the size of a golf ball but I really do feel that since I let go of the stress of it and just accepted it as non-cancerous, that has played a big part in it staying on the small-side.... it was quite large and painful at the point when I had it drained (only to refill...augh!).

    How old is your baby? Have you breastfed other babies? When did you first notice these lumps?

    I've read in a few places (and the surgeon my ob-gyn spoke with where we live also said) that surgery isn't always necessary. It is thought that most galactoceles will dissolve away and be reabsorbed into your body after you are done nursing. I'm not at that point yet so I'll have to wait to see how that plays out.

    I'd love to talk to you more and just be a shoulder to lean on when you need someone to bounce questions off of. Feel free to email me. And, most importantly, DON'T worry. My thoughts often centered around "what if it's cancer". Even if it had been, worrying only creates more stress in our lives and stress wreaks havoc on our immune and every other system. Simpler said than done sometimes but I know the stress I felt only made it worse. These days, I feel for a palpable size once in awhile but not constantly.

    I look at this as a time-thing. The only reason mine shrank quickly after refilling (post-aspiration) was because I got so dehydrating from illness. That was the perfect (well, aside from endless bathroom visits) jumping point to getting it under more manageable control again. Know anyone who is sick with the flu?? ;)

    Looking back, it has taken a couple months to get to this point where I can accept that it is slow-going but still heading in a positive direction.

    I'll keep you in prayer that you would feel comforted and less stressed. I'm here if you want to talk more.


  4. Hello, can u update on the galactocele? Very curious, I think I have one!

  5. Here's an update from a few months back... Be sure to read through all the comments and add any questions you may have as well. Hopefully the other women who added information are still reading too; it's always helpful to hear of others in the same situation with advice/suggestions/encouragement!

    Hopefully I'll get another post up soon. Let me know if you have any qusetions!

  6. Hi, what happened with your galactocele now? After weaning, do you have it filled up again? I have stopped breastfeeding and curious if i need more than 1 fine needle aspiration/ Appreciate it your experience. Thank you

  7. Here is another post:

    If you scroll through the comments, you will read a further follow-up. I just haven't taken the time to further update.

    If you stopped breastfeeding when you had it aspirated and you are no longer lactating, it probably isn't something you will have to do again.

    I still have one that I can only assume is calcified by now. Our son was young when I developed it and I wasn't willing to stop breastfeeding for my milk to dry up/re-aspirate. I breastfed for another year and a half beyond the original aspiration and just let it be thinking it would dissolve at that point. It didn't. I've heard it does in some people though.

    It rarely bothers me now and if it ever does it's more of a reminder that it's there; definitely smaller and probably a milk solid at this point. I did begin a topical magnesium spray which has seemingly taken away the pain I would sometimes feel. I guess I should write another "update" post.

    Take care! :)

  8. Thank you all for the various posts.... i am more than relieved. I noticed mine at exxactly when my baby was 3 months old and became so worried till i visited my gyn and she took it with levity. she made me understood it wasnt anything serious, but within me i wasnt just comfortable it was there. she sent me for x-ray of the two breast and the result came out as GALACTOCELE! My gyn said it will dissolve with time. Eventhough it hasnt as my baby is 11months now, injust hope it does as soon as i wean him. my question is, what exactly is the cause of the milk solidification?

    1. Hi i have galatocoele.... My baby is 5 months old ..i want to ask u did your galactocoele resolve on its own or still there????

  9. Sorry for the delay in approving your post and replying. I haven't posted on this blog in some time. I still have one but I have to really feel for its mass now. My breast is more sensitive in that area but otherwise it doesn't bother me much. I don't know the exact cause of milk solidification but would assume the calcium and mineral content of any milk not reabsorbed by the body would be reason enough to calcify over time.

  10. Hi I have one galactocele..please tell me home remedies for this

  11. Oh my goodness I'm so glad I found this. I believe I may have this. I've had plugged ducts and mastitis in the other Breast but this feels different. It's not really painful but just more tender in that area. At this point it is very small, like the size of a cherry. I have been pumping and I notice that my milk takes longer to come down on that side and seems to produce less. I have already started supplementing with formula with plans to wean and now I'm back tracking thinking I might be able to continue nursing!!!

  12. Hi...i have 5moths old baby and i have galactocele since 4 months...though i know it is not dangerous but sometime i get worry to think about....should it resolve on its own?? Should i stop to brest feed or should i continue ?? P