What is Nipple Discharge?

Nipple discharge is fluid coming out of the nipple. This is a common symptom affecting women of all ages. Nipple discharge can be unilateral or bilateral (i.e. affecting one or both breasts). Nipple discharge can manifest in different consistencies and frequency and can be clear (transparent), blood-stained, brown, green or milky. It is very important to seek specialist advice when any type of nipple discharge occurs and persists for more than a week. Even a one-off episode of nipple discharge can be suggestive of something sinister. The majority of patients however who present with nipple discharge end up having a benign condition and not breast cancer.

What are the causes of Nipple Discharge?

The majority of patients however who present with nipple discharge end up having a benign condition and not breast cancer.

If you are breastfeeding, or have high prolactin levels or you are pregnant, milky nipple discharge is quite common and is very rarely suggestive of something sinister. The most common type of discharge that can cause concern is blood-stained, brown (old blood) or clear discharge, which is spontaneous (not caused by pressure of the nipple) and affects one duct on one side.

The most common cause of clear, brown or blood-stained nipple discharge is a condition called breast papilloma. A breast papilloma is most commonly benign (non-cancerous), but in some cases it can harbour early non-invasive or small invasive breast cancer. It is crucial therefore that any nipple discharge is fully assessed in order to rule out a papilloma or a very early breast cancer which can be completely cured.

How is Nipple Discharge assessed?

During your breast health triple assessment Mr Charalampoudis will perform a full breast examination and will arrange for mammogram and ultrasound as appropriate. He may also take a sample of the nipple fluid and send it to the laboratory for testing.

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