What does normal breast discharge look like
Breast cancer is a malignant disease that occurs when there is an uncontrollable growth of cells in the breast. The exact causes for the development of the disease are not fully understood, but it is known that the disease is always related to inherited or acquired DNA mutations. Also, there are numerous risk factors that impact the probability of suffering from breast cancer, a disease that remains the second most common type of cancer among American women. The widespread use of screening mammograms resulted over the years in higher rates of early diagnosis and survival.
SEE VIDEO BY TOPIC: Myths about Breast CancerContent:
Fluid that leaks from one or both nipples is called a nipple discharge. Each breast has several 15 to 20 milk ducts. A discharge can come from one or more of these ducts. See also Overview of Breast Disorders. Nipple discharge can occur normally during the last weeks of pregnancy and after childbirth when breast milk is produced. A nipple discharge can also be normal in women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding, especially during the reproductive years. For example, in women, fondling, suckling, irritation from clothing, or sexual arousal can stimulate a nipple discharge, as can stress.
However, a nipple discharge in men is always abnormal. A normal nipple discharge is usually a thin, cloudy, whitish, or almost clear fluid that is not sticky. However, the discharge may be other colors, such as gray, green, yellow, or brown. During pregnancy or breastfeeding, a normal discharge is sometimes slightly bloody. Abnormal discharges vary in appearance depending on the cause. An abnormal discharge may be accompanied by other abnormalities, such as dimpled skin, swelling, redness, crusting, sores, and a retracted nipple.
A nipple is retracted if it pulls inward and does not return to its normal position when it is stimulated. If a discharge from only one breast occurs on its own without any stimulation of the nipple , it is considered abnormal.
A discharge from one milk duct or from one breast is likely to be caused by a problem with that breast, such as a noncancerous benign or cancerous breast tumor. A discharge from both breasts or from several milk ducts in one breast is more likely to be caused by a problem outside the breast, such as a hormonal disorder or use of certain drugs.
Fibrocystic changes , including pain, cysts, and general lumpiness. A breast infection or abscess. Intraductal papilloma is the most common cause. It is also the most common cause of a bloody nipple discharge when there is no lump in the breast. Certain disorders stimulate the production of breast milk in women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding see table Some Causes and Features of Nipple Discharge.
In most of these disorders, the level of prolactin a hormone that stimulates production of breast milk is elevated. Taking certain drugs can have the same effect. Occurs without the nipple's being squeezed or stimulated by other means when it occurs spontaneously. If a nipple discharge continues for more than one menstrual cycle or if any of the warning signs are present, women or men should see a doctor.
Women with such symptoms should see a doctor within 1 or 2 days. Doctors first ask questions about the woman's symptoms and medical history. Doctors then do a physical examination. What they find during the history and physical examination often suggests a cause of the discharge and the tests that may need to be done see Table below. To help identify the cause, doctors ask about the discharge and about other symptoms that may suggest possible causes. They ask.
Whether a lump or breast pain is present. Women are also asked whether they have had disorders or take drugs that can increase prolactin levels. Doctors examine the breast, looking for abnormalities, including lumps. If the discharge does not occur spontaneously, the area around the nipples is gently pressed to try to stimulate a discharge. Benign breast disorders. Additional tests depending on the results evaluation as for breast lumps. Fibrocystic changes including pain, cysts, and general lumpiness.
An abscess or infection. Breast cancer. Hypothyroidism an underactive thyroid gland. Some antidepressants and phenothiazines drugs used to treat nausea or psychosis , such as prochlorperazine. Some antihypertensives such as atenolol , labetalol , methyldopa , reserpine , and verapamil. Features mentioned are typical but not always present. If doctors suspect that a hormonal disorder is the cause, blood tests are done to measure the levels of prolactin and thyroid-stimulating hormone.
If a pituitary or brain disorder is suspected, magnetic resonance imaging MRI or computed tomography CT of the head is done. If the discharge is not obviously bloody, it is analyzed to determine whether it contains small amounts of blood. If blood is present, a sample of the discharge is examined under a microscope called cytology to look for cancer cells. If a lump can be felt, ultrasonography is done. Testing is similar to that for any breast lump.
Cysts are drained by aspiration , and the fluid is tested. If cysts remain after aspiration or if lumps are solid, mammography is done, followed by a biopsy. If ultrasonography and mammography do not identify a cause and the discharge occurs spontaneously and comes from one milk duct, doctors usually do a special type of mammogram called a ductogram, or galactogram. For this procedure, a contrast agent which helps make images clearer is injected into the duct, and images are taken, just as for a regular mammogram.
This test can help rule out or identify cancer. If a noncancerous tumor or disorder is causing a discharge from one breast, the duct that the discharge is coming from may be removed.
This procedure requires only a local anesthetic and does not require an overnight stay in the hospital. If the discharge comes from both breasts or from several milk ducts and is not bloody or pink, the cause is usually a noncancerous hormonal disorder. If the discharge comes from only one breast and is bloody or pink, cancer is possible, especially in women aged 40 or older.
Whether blood tests, imaging such as ultrasonography , or both is done depends on the suspected cause. From developing new therapies that treat and prevent disease to helping people in need, we are committed to improving health and well-being around the world. The Merck Manual was first published in as a service to the community.
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Several disorders can cause an abnormal discharge. Usually, the cause is a benign disorder of the milk ducts, such as the following:. A benign tumor in a milk duct intraductal papilloma. Warning signs Nipple discharge is a cause for concern when it. Whether the discharge comes from one or both breasts. Whether it is spontaneous or occurs only when the nipple is stimulated.
Intraductal papilloma a benign tumor in a milk duct —the most common cause. A bloody, pink, or multicolored puslike, gray, or milky discharge from one or both breasts. A lump, often rubbery and tender, usually developing before menopause. Pain, tenderness, redness, warmth, or a combination that begins suddenly in a breast.
With an abscess, a tender lump and possibly a puslike discharge that smells foul. If the discharge does not resolve with treatment, evaluation as for intraductal papilloma. Possibly a palpable lump, changes in the skin, or enlarged lymph nodes, most often in the armpit.
Possibly menstrual irregularities or no menstrual periods amenorrhea. Blood tests to measure prolactin and thyroid-stimulating hormone levels. If the prolactin or thyroid-stimulating level is elevated, MRI of the head. Disorders of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus part of the brain.
Chronic kidney or liver disorders. If no lump can be felt and the mammogram is normal, cancer is highly unlikely. If a disorder is identified, it is treated.
Ask an expert: When is nipple discharge a concern?
So normal that when renowned breast surgeon Susan Love, M. There are many different presentations of nipple discharge, as well as many potential causes. While precancers and cancers can be to blame, they rarely actually are.
Nipple discharge is any fluid or other liquid that comes out of your nipple. You might have to squeeze the nipple to get the fluid to come out, or it could seep out on its own. Discharge is usually not serious. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of nipple discharge and when you should talk to your doctor.
What Causes Nipple Discharge in Non-Lactating Women?
Learn about our expanded patient care options for your health care needs. It is possible to express a bit a fluid from the nipples of most women regardless of age. The fluid is usually milky, green, or brown. This is normal and not a sign of cancer. There are some specific types of nipple discharge that warrant closer evaluation:. Generally, any discharge that occurs all by itself in a woman who is not pregnant should be evaluated by a breast specialist. Ultrasound is very useful at evaluating causes of nipple discharge.
Causes and treatments of nipple discharge
Sometimes discharge from your nipples is OK and will get better on its own. You are more likely to have nipple discharge if you have been pregnant at least once. Nipple discharge is most often not cancer benign , but rarely, it can be a sign of breast cancer. It is important to find out what is causing it and to get treatment.
Experiencing unusual nipple discharge is the third-most-common reason women visit their doctors for conditions related to their breasts. This statistic is according to the Journal of Cellular Immunotherapy , who report that nipple discharge is the third most reported symptom in the breast after breast pain and a lump. Nipple discharge can affect men and women and is not always cause for concern.
An Overview of Nipple Discharge
Breast discharge leaking from your nipples can throw you for a loop. Unless they provide you with some spectacular feelings during sex , in which case, gold star for your nips. So when they suddenly start acting out, it can be surprising, to say the least. Other kinds, like bloody discharge, are not.SEE VIDEO BY TOPIC: What does it mean if I have nipple discharge?
Nipple discharge refers to any fluid that excretes out of the nipple of the breast. On the other hand, nipple discharge in men under any circumstances could be a problem and needs further evaluation. One or both breasts may produce a nipple discharge when you squeeze your nipples or breasts. Any nipple discharge may look milky, or it may be clear, yellow, green, brown or bloody. The consistency of nipple discharge can vary — it may be thick and sticky or thin and watery.
Nipple discharge during pregnancy and breast-feeding is normal. Nipple discharge happens less commonly in women who aren't pregnant or breast-feeding. It may not be cause for concern, but it's wise to have it evaluated by a doctor to be sure. Men who experience nipple discharge under any circumstances should be evaluated. One or both breasts may produce a nipple discharge, either spontaneously or when you squeeze your nipples or breasts. Nipple discharge may look milky, clear, yellow, green, brown or bloody. Discharge that isn't milk comes out of your nipple through the same ducts that carry milk. The discharge can involve a single duct or multiple ducts.
Fluid that leaks from one or both nipples is called a nipple discharge. Each breast has several 15 to 20 milk ducts. A discharge can come from one or more of these ducts.
The Mammo Press
Nipple discharge can be an early symptom of breast cancer, but most cases of nipple discharge are due to benign conditions. The following are guidelines to differentiate benign discharge from discharge that is associated with malignancy:. If the discharge is spontaneous, and is coming from a single duct, the next step is to do a ductogram. A ductogram is a procedure in which contrast material is placed into the duct under local anesthesia and an X-ray is taken see link to picture.