A: Intraductal Papilloma. Q: What is a type of benign breast tumor?

A: Intraductal Papilloma. Q: What is a type of benign breast tumor?

Our week long discussion of breast discharge would be incomplete without a discussion of papillomas. This is one of the more common causes of discharge- particularly in younger women with unilateral bloody discharge. Today our focus will be on these often tiny but sometimes problematic tumors.


Intraductal papillomas, as they are formally known, are small benign, non-cancerous breast masses that grow in the milk ducts. Papilloma refers to their often frond-like or warty surface. Due to their small size, they may not show up on mammograms, nor can they be palpated. These small growths may present with symptoms such as bloody discharge from the nipple or may present as a change on a mammogram. On occasion they are detected on breast ultrasound as a growth or mass within one of the breast ducts. They may be found on a ductogram (a special mammogram with contrast material injected in the ducts) as a small round persistent spot in the duct.


Papillomas are uncommon – affecting less than 3% of the population.  They can be located within one of the breast ducts behind the nipple or may be located within the smaller breast ducts branching in the breast tissue. Once identified, the diagnosis will be made by biopsy. If a needle biopsy is done, these lesions may go on to surgical removal to make sure the whole lesion is treated and evaluated. Having an intraductal papilloma does not appear to be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer for most women. For a small percentage of women, multiple papillomas and or atypical cells in the papilloma may alter their overall risk for breast cancer slightly.


Once a papilloma is removed, the symptoms of breast discharge are most often cured, and the woman can return to routine annual screening mammography.



Originally published 1/23/14 on mammographykc.com.