Nipple discharge

Definition

Nipple discharge is any fluid that comes out of the nipple area in your breast.

Causes

Sometimes discharge from your nipples is okay and will get better on its own. You are more likely to have nipple discharge as you get older and if you have been pregnant at least once.

Nipple discharge is usually not a symptom of breast cancer. But it is important to find out what is causing it and to get treatment. Here are some reasons for nipple discharge:

Sometimes, babies can have nipple discharge. Your doctor or nurse will call this "witch's milk." It is caused by hormones from the mother before birth, and should go away in 2 weeks.

Cancers that can cause nipple discharge are:

Symptoms

Nipple discharge that is NOT normal is:

Nipple discharge is more likely to be normal if:

The color of the discharge does not tell you whether it is normal or not. The discharge can look milky, clear, yellow, green, or brown.

Squeezing your nipple to check for discharge can make it worse. Leaving them alone may make the nipple discharge go away.

Exams and Tests

Your doctor or nurse will examine you and ask questions about your symptoms and medical history.

Tests that may be done may include:

Treatment

Once the cause of your nipple discharge is found, your doctor or nurse can recommend ways to treat it. You may:

If all of your tests are normal, may not need treatment. You should have another mammogram and physical exam within 1 year. 

Outlook (Prognosis)

In most cases, nipple problems are not breast cancer. These problems will either go away with the right treatment, or they can be watched closely over time.

Possible Complications

Nipple discharge may be a symptom of breast cancer or a pituitary tumor.

Skin changes around the nipple may be caused by Paget's disease.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If you are a man and have nipple discharge, make an appointment with your doctor or nurse right away.


Review Date: 9/15/2012
Reviewed By: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc. Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.