What is nipple discharge?
Nipple discharge is fluid that leaks from one or both of your nipples.
The discharge can be cloudy, whitish, bloody, or almost clear fluid
Nipple discharge is sometimes normal—for example, at the end of pregnancy or when breastfeeding
Nipple discharge is never normal in boys and men
What causes nipple discharge?
The most common causes of nipple discharge are:
A benign tumor in your milk duct (these tumors aren't cancer)
Milk ducts that have gotten bigger, thicker, and filled with fluid
Fibrocystic changes Fibrocystic Changes of the Breast Fibrocystic changes are a set of breast symptoms that include pain, cysts, and general lumpiness in your breasts. The word fibrocystic comes from the terms fibrous tissue and cyst. Fibrous tissue... read more (a condition that includes breast pain, breast cysts, and other breast lumps that aren’t cancer)
Less common causes of nipple discharge are:
High levels of a hormone called prolactin
Prolactin is a hormone that tells your body to make breast milk after you have a baby. However, prolactin can be produced by certain health problems, such as thyroid or liver disorders, and certain medicines.
When should I go to a doctor for nipple discharge?
Go to a doctor within 1 to 2 days if you have nipple discharge and signs of infection:
Discharge of pus (gray, green, yellow, or brown fluid that's thick and sticky)
Go to a doctor within a week or so if you have nipple discharge and:
It happens on its own—when your nipple isn’t squeezed
You’re age 40 or older
It’s only from one breast
The discharge is bloody or pink
You have a lump you can feel in your breast
What will happen at my doctor visit?
Doctors will ask you questions about your symptoms and health. They’ll do an exam, including a breast exam Breast examination Breast disorders may be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). Most are noncancerous and not life threatening. Often, they do not require treatment. In contrast, breast cancer can mean... read more .
To find out what's causing your nipple discharge, doctors may do other tests, such as:
Blood tests to see your hormone levels
Look at a sample of your discharge under a microscope
Ultrasound Ultrasonography Ultrasonography is a safe imaging test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the insides of your body. Ultrasonography doesn't use radiation (x-rays). Ultrasonography is also called... read more (a test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the insides of your body) of your breast
How do doctors treat nipple discharge?
Doctors will treat the cause of your nipple discharge.
If you have a noncancerous tumor causing nipple discharge from one breast, doctors may remove the milk duct from that breast.