Nipple dischargeBy Mayo Clinic staff
Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nipple-discharge/MY00467
Nipple discharge refers to any fluid that seeps out of the nipple of the breast.
Nipple discharge in a woman who's not pregnant or breast-feeding isn't necessarily abnormal, but should be evaluated by a doctor. Nipple discharge in a man under any circumstances is a problem that should be investigated.
One or both breasts may produce a nipple discharge, either spontaneously or when you squeeze your nipples or breasts. A nipple discharge may look milky, or it may be yellow, green, brown or bloody. Nonmilk discharge comes out of your breasts through the same nipple openings that carry milk. The consistency of nipple discharge varies from thick and sticky to thin and watery.
Sometimes, nipple discharge is a normal part of your breast's function. If that's the case, the discharge might resolve on its own.
Most often, nipple discharge stems from a noncancerous (benign) condition. However, breast cancer is a possibility, especially if:
- You are over age 40
- You have a lump in your breast
- The discharge contains blood
- Only one breast is affected
Possible causes of nipple discharge include:
- Breast cancer
- Breast infection
- Excessive breast stimulation
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
- Hormone imbalance
- Injury or trauma to the breast
- Intraductal papilloma
- Mammary duct ectasia
- Medication use
- Paget's disease of the breast
When to see a doctor
Nipple discharge is rarely a sign of breast cancer. But it might be a sign of an underlying condition that requires treatment. If you're still having menstrual periods and your nipple discharge doesn't resolve on its own after your next menstrual cycle, make an appointment with your doctor to have it evaluated. However, if you're postmenopausal or if your nipple discharge is particularly bothersome, see your doctor right away.
In the meantime, take care to avoid nipple stimulation — including frequent checks for discharge — because stimulation actually makes the discharge persist.
- Non-cancerous breast conditions. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003180-pdf.pdf. Accessed Jan. 13, 2011.
- Golshan M, et al. Nipple discharge. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Jan. 13, 2011.
- Breast disorders. The Merck Manuals: Home Edition for Patients and Caregivers. http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec22/ch251/ch251a.html. Accessed Jan. 13, 2011.