Any fluid that comes out of the nipple is considered as nipple discharge.
It is not an issue even in women who are breast-feeding or pregnant, but nipple discharge in men has to be evaluated by a physician. Nipples may release fluid automatically or when you squeeze them. Either one or both breasts can have a nipple discharge.
The color of the fluid can vary from milky, yellow, brown, green, bloody or clear. The consistency of nipple discharge can range between sticky and thick or water and thin.
Nipple discharge is not abnormal during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It can also related to fibrocystic changes or menstrual hormone changes.
The milky discharge from both breasts after stopping nursing can be seen up to two or three years.
A spontaneous bloody discharge from a single duct refers to a noncancerous tumor called papilloma.
Nipple discharge may be related to breast cancer if you have any of these symptoms:
- Only one breast is affected
- You have a lump in your breast
- Bloody discharge
- Discharge is persistent and spontaneous
- Discharge from a single duct only
- The discharge is spontaneous and persistent
- The discharge affects only a single duct
The common causes of nipple discharge are listed below:
- Due to birth control pills
- Breast cancer
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
- Endocrine disorders
- Over breast stimulation
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Injury or trauma to the breast
- Intraductal papilloma
- Mammary duct ectasia
- Use of certain medicines
- Menstrual cycle hormone changes
- Periductal mastitis
- Pregnancy and breast-feeding
- Paget’s disease of the breast
Bloody nipple discharge is never normal.
Blood in the nipple discharge is abnormal. Other abnormal signs are spontaneous discharge without touch, stimulation or irritation in your breast.
The color of the discharge is not useful in identifying whether nipple discharge is abnormal or not.
The following tests will be required to diagnose the nipple discharge.
- Blood tests
- Laboratory analysis of the discharge
- Ultrasound and/or mammogram of the affected or both breasts
- A brain scan
- A surgical excision and examination of one or more ducts in your nipple.
Not all nipple discharge is a symptom of breast cancer. However, it can be associated with other health issues that need treatment.
If you are having menstruation and nipple discharge does not resolve after your next menstrual period , you should visit your doctor.
If you have completed menopause and you have spontaneous nipple discharge from a single duct, consult with you doctor immediately.
You should keep in mind that nipple stimulation should be avoided. Repeated checks for discharge can make the discharge continue.