What Are the Causes of Nipple Discharge?
Nipple discharge in women is a normal occurrence and is usually not a sign of any serious underlying condition. However, it is always important to be breast aware, which is why we provide you with the necessary information to help you decide when to visit a healthcare provider if you are experiencing nipple discharge. We underline some of the causes of nipple discharge and how you can spot it.
There are several causes of nipple discharge, and most are innocuous. Nipple discharge is not usually a sign of breast cancer, although it can be an indicator if accompanied by other symptoms. Furthermore, the likelihood of a malignant condition being the cause of nipple discharge increases with age. Nipple discharge is not a normal occurrence in men.
Common causes of nipple discharge include complications arising from pregnancy and puerperium (the period after giving birth). This is particularly with regards to the enlargement or blockage of milk ducts during breastfeeding. In the months prior to giving birth, your breasts will begin to produce colostrum, which is the first milk your breasts produce for you to breastfeed. This milk can leak from your nipples and is a perfectly normal occurrence.
Nipple discharge is also associated with breast infections (mastitis). Depending upon the infection, discharge from the nipple is usually benign. You can read our blog on breast infections to learn more about possible symptoms and treatments. If you are experiencing discharge from a single duct, we advise you to seek a medical consultation to determine the cause, particularly if the discharge is frequent (multiple times a week) or is blood coloured or is associated with a breast lump. Noncancerous lumps and tumours can also cause nipple discharge, as can physical trauma to the breast or side effects from certain medications.
What Should I Do If I Have Nipple Discharge?
Firstly, conduct a self-examination of your breasts and nipples, taking note of any changes or abnormalities. It is important to record the frequency of the discharge, as well as the colour. Note if there is any blood visible in the discharge; nipple discharge that contains blood can sometimes be a sign of a serious underlying condition or disease, such as cancer. However, the absence of blood does not automatically mean the discharge is not related to a malignancy.
Therefore, if you are experiencing nipple discharge or any other accompanying symptoms, we recommend you undergo a breast examination or mammogram conducted by a medical professional. This will determine the causes of the nipple discharge and access to any necessary treatment. A biopsy may also be recommended to remove tissue to test for any abnormalities. Treatment will be advised depending on the cause of the nipple discharge.
At Suffolk Breast Practice, we understand how concerning it can be to discover any abnormalities in your breast. If you experience any of the above symptoms, please do not hesitate to contact us. We offer an empathetic service sensitive to your needs as our patient, and will support you in your journey, from initial consultation to any follow-up service. We seek to provide an ethical and non-judgemental service to ensure you receive the best care and advice possible.
Treatment of Nipple discharge
Most Cases of nipple discharge are benign and resolve by themselves with time, I you present to us with nipple discharge we will try to ascertain the cause of it and address it. in some cases no obvious cause would be found so it's important to keep a diary of the discharge for around six weeks to help determine the next step.
If the breast discharge is persistant and causes sigificant disturbance to your quality of life then we can consider removing the milk ducts from under the nipple to help resolve your symptoms.