Other than milk from lactating mothers, any other nipple or breast discharge is likely to cause alarm and worry. However not all such discharge is cause for alarm though in cases unusual discharge could be the symptom of a serious problem.
Breast Discharge can be of different types and can be indicative of the underlying cause that gives rise to the discharge – it could be cloudy white, in which case the most likely cause for the discharge could be a condition called galactorrhea.
During pregnancy, a clear or light whitish discharge from the nipples could be noted. Whitish yellow or greenish pus like discharge from the nipples is most likely to be caused by an infection.
A bloody discharge could indicate an infection or intraductal papillomas; on the other hand discharge that contains blood could also mean breast cancer.
All breast discharge is not necessarily abnormal, however all not nursing related discharge should be reported to the doctor for evaluation according to Mayo Clinic. For men, no nipple discharge is ever normal and must invariably be checked. The discharge could be clear and watery or it could be thick and sticky and can be due to any of the many causes given below.
While breast cancer is an apprehension that is most likely to come to mind when there is any breast discharge, this is most likely among women over 40 years of age. However the likelihood of it being breast cancer is high only if the discharge is bloody, and there is also a lump in the breast, and only one breast is affected. The reasons for nipple discharge could be any of the following ones:
- An abcess in the breast could cause fluid leakage from the breast.
- Infection of the breast, such as of the milk ducts or other parts of the breast, may result in discharge.
- Sometimes it could be excessive breast stimulation that causes the breast discharge.
- Hormonal imbalances could also result in discharge.
- Fibroadenomas, solid, noncancerous tumors that often occur in women during their reproductive years could also cause fluid leakage from the breast.
- Fibrocystic breasts with nodular or glandular tissue may also cause discharge.
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), usually thought of as the earliest form of breast cancer may also be responsible.
- Paget’s disease, one of the rarest forms of breast cancer can also cause the discharge.
- Mammary duct ectasia can cause discharge when a milk duct becomes dilated, and the duct fills with fluid which then discharges.
- Galactorrhea (spontaneous flow of milk from the breast, unassociated with childbirth or nursing caused by hormonal imbalance or excessive stimulation).
- Prolactinoma is a condition where the hormone prolactin is produced by a noncancerous tumor (adenoma) of the pituitary gland in the brain.
- Certain medications can also cause certain fluid leakage from the breast .
- False pregnancy or Pseudocyesis can also be responsible.
- Over exercise can also cause discharge.
- Trauma or physical injury could sometimes cause nipple or breast discharge.