Nipple Discharge and Breast Health

Nipple Discharge and Breast Health

 The Talk

Writing a blog about mammography touches on subjects around which there are not many conversations. Women may compare thoughts on recently read books, or talk about new heels, but rarely would one say, “I suddenly had nipple discharge – do you get that too?” The truth is, if it happens it needs to be talked about, and a great place to start is with your doctor. Nipple discharge can be an indicator of a variety of conditions some of which are benign, some of which are not. It’s important to talk to your physician to know the difference.


The Experience

Discharge means a leaking of fluid from the nipple. It can be a fluid of varying colors from clear to milky and on occasion bloody or blood tinged. While any discharge from the breast when you aren’t breastfeeding should prompt discussion with your doctor, there are situations which are more concerning. These include discharge that comes from only one nipple, occurs spontaneously (without breast manipulation), or is bloody or blood tinged. If a man experiences discharge, a visit to the doctor is also needed.


The Possibilities

There are multiple causes of breast discharge, often benign. Some of the causes include:

  • galactorrhea (milk from nipple when not lactating)
  • mammary duct ectasia (dilated breast ducts)
  • intraductal papilloma (a benign breast tumor)
  • prolactinoma (a tumor of the part of the brain controlling lactation)
  • breast infection
  • breast cancer
  • That’s not even the whole list!


The Action

When you go to the doctor to talk about your nipple discharge (because you ARE going, right?), he or she may recommend examinations such as a mammogram, a breast ultrasound, breast MRI or ductogram (special mammogram with contrast material or dye injected in the abnormal duct) may be ordered. Once your radiologist reviews your images, you may find out exactly what you’re dealing with, or know what to do next to learn more so that you can take action. Either way, once you take care of yourself and get your exam, you are on your way to better health! For further information about nipple discharge, the Mayo Clinic site has some excellent resources.



Originally posted 6/7/13 on