Discharge from the Nipple

Approximately 12-15 ducts open at each nipple. Leakage from the nipple can be entirely normal in the following circumstances: Milky discharge during pregnancy and breast feeding; Discharge that is only evident if the breast is squeezed, particularly if you have had children in the past. Occasional discharge that comes from multiple ducts on the nipple is also normal although can be more difficult to be sure about yourself.

All other types of nipple discharge require expert assessment. Nipple discharge is assessed by expert clinical examination. A mammogram, ultrasound, and a smear of the discharge ( for examination under the microscope) is often indicated.

Breast cancer is a rare cause of nipple discharge but this is the reason why nipple discharge is investigated. Pre-cancerous change is found in approximately 1 in 10 cases of nipple discharge that comes from only one duct. A more common cause of this is a duct papilloma. Duct papillomas are benign and are the usual cause of persistent nipple discharge coming from one duct.

Surgery for nipple discharge is performed for one of two reasons:

  • To stop a discharge that is of no concern but is troublesome or unacceptable.
  • Or, to investigate a nipple discharge.

(See Surgery for Nipple Discharge)