Breast discharge or nipple discharge can be alarming to women who are not breastfeeding. It refers to secretion of any fluid from the nipple in a non lactating woman. This condition in most of the cases is a result of a minor condition and nothing to panic. In pregnant women, clear or watery nipple discharge is normal. Even after the woman has stopped breast feeding, a milk like discharge may be present while is also normal. The nipples may discharge a fluid due to stimulation. While all these are normal conditions, there can be reasons for abnormal discharge in some cases and the causes of breast discharge may be various.
One or both breasts may secrete a discharge when squeezed or spontaneously. The discharge may be yellow, green, brown, milky or bloody and the consistency of the nipple discharge can vary from thin, watery to sticky. Along with the discharge, some changes in the breasts might take place such as tenderness, inverted nipples, redness, dimples or rash around the nipple or lumps. Discharges can be due to a benign condition or breast cancer. The causes of breast discharge can be any of the following:
1. Breast Cancer: Breast cancer is a common type of cancer in women and one of the symptoms of this condition can be bloody discharge from the nipples.
2. Galactorrhea: This is the condition of a milky nipple discharge which is not related to lactating.
Galactorrhea is a symptom to an underlying medical issue. It happens due to increased levels of prolactin which is the hormone for producing milk.
3. Fibrocystic Breasts: There can be cases of non-bloody brown or green nipple discharge in this condition of breasts.
4. Prolactinoma: Milky breast discharge may be seen in this condition.
5. DCIS: This is the earliest form of breast cancer in which the abnormal cells multiply and grow within the milk duct of your breast. Discharge from the breasts is a symptom for this form of disease.
The other causes of breast discharge may be hormonal imbalances
, injury to breast, widening of the milk ducts, certain medications, abscess, pregnancy, breast stimulation, breast infection or fibroadenoma. The likelihood of this secretion or discharge increases with age.
If the nipple discharge does not go away on its own and you are not pregnant, it is required that you visit the doctor to diagnose the underlying medical issue. A doctor may perform tests like Thyroid function tests, Prolactin level test, MRI or CT scans to diagnose the underlying condition. Other tests may include mammography, breast biopsy, ultrasound of breast, ductography or skin biopsy if Paget's disease is suspected.
The treatment can vary according to the underlying cause of the breast discharge. Anti fungal creams and antibiotic creams or steroid creams may be used to treat the changes around the nipple area. The breast ducts may be removed, abnormal finding on mammogram will be removed, medications may be changed or treatment can be given for the underlying conditions like breast infection or hypothyroidism. If one experiences any nipple discharge, it is advisable to visit the doctor and get a checkup done.
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Milky Breast Discharge Explained