For instance, when someone is pregnant or breastfeeding, little quantities of milk might drip out of your breasts. The leakage can begin early in your pregnancy, and you could continue to see milk for up to two or three years after you stop breastfeeding.
Nevertheless, most women who aren’t pregnant or breastfeeding may have discharge as well. Other causes of nipple discharge include:
- breast infection or abscess
- duct papilloma, a harmless wart-like growth in your milk duct
- birth control pills
- drugs that increase levels of the milk-producing hormone prolactin, such as antidepressants and tranquilizers
- excess stimulation of the breast or nipple
- fibrocystic breasts
- hormone changes during your period or menopause
- breast cancer
- mammary duct ectasia, a blocked milk duct
- prolactinoma, a noncancerous tumor of the pituitary gland
- injury to the breast
- underactive thyroid gland
Symptoms and Types of Nipple Discharge
Nipple discharge occurs in different colors. The color can give you some hints about the cause.
- Green: caused by cysts
- Brown or cheese-like: The possible cause is mammary duct ectasia
- white, cloudy, yellow, or filled with pus: Is caused by an infection of the breast
- Clear: Breast cancer, especially if it’s only coming out from one breast
- Bloody: The possible causes are Papilloma or breast cancer
Discharge can also come in a few various textures. For instance, it may be thick, sticky, or thin.
Some other symptoms you might have with nipple discharge include:
- lump or swelling in the breast or around the nipple
- nipple changes, like turning inward, dimpling, changing color, itching, or scaling
- breast size changes, such as one breast that’s larger or smaller than the other
- breast pain or tenderness
- missed periods
- nausea or vomiting
Breast cancer can also cause nipple discharge, mainly ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), an early kind of breast cancer that arises in the milk ducts. It can also occur with Paget’s disease of the breast, an uncommon type of breast cancer that involves the nipple.
However, if you do have breast cancer, the release will apparently only come from one breast. You may notice a lump in your breast, too.
Discharge is rarely due to cancer, however. One research discovered that only 9 percent of women 50 years or older who saw a doctor for nipple discharge really turn out to have breast cancer. However, is It a good idea to get any breast discharge checked out?
How you can Seek help
Nipple discharge is normally nothing to worry about. However, because it can be a symptom of breast cancer, see your doctor have it checked out. It’s especially essential to see a doctor if:
- you have nipple changes (such as crusting or color change)
- you have pain in your breast or other symptoms of breast cancer
- the discharge is bloody
- only one breast is affected
- you have a lump in your breast
- the discharge doesn’t stop
Your doctor will start by asking questions about the discharge, including:
- Is it in one breast or both?
- What medications do you take?
- Does it come out on its own, or do you have to squeeze the nipple to produce it?
- What other symptoms do you have?
- When did the discharge start?
- Are you pregnant or breastfeeding?
The doctor will do a clinical exam to check your breasts for lumps or other signs of cancer. You may also have one or more of these tests:
- Mammogram: This test takes X-ray pictures of your breasts to help the doctor look for cancer.
- Ductogram: This test uses mammography and an injected contrast material to take pictures of the milk ducts inside your breasts.
- Biopsy: The doctor removes a small sample of tissue from your breast to check it for cancer.
- Ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to take pictures of the inside of your breasts.
Your doctor will also likely do a urine or blood test to find out whether you’re pregnant.