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Mammary Duct Ectasia Is a Benign Breast Condition

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Updated March 26, 2008

Description of Mammary Duct Ectasia:

In some women who are pre– or perimenopausal (age 40 – 50), breast milk ducts may become swollen and clogged. Milk ducts can dilate (swell) and the walls may thicken, so much so that the flow of fluid is blocked. These ducts are just beneath the nipple, and when these swell, that can cause your nipple to feel tender or irritated, and may cause nipple discharge. Mammary duct ectasia can cause grey to green discharge that is thick and sticky. This is a benign (non-cancerous) condition.

What Duct Ectasia Feels Like:

Duct ectasia can feel like a small lump just under your nipple. The nipple and areola may become tender and irritated, and turn pink or red. You will see thick, sticky discharge from your nipple. This discharge is benign, and can be black, grey or greenish in color. This means you have an infection within a duct. In some cases, your nipple may retract (pull inwards) during a bout with mammary duct ectasia. Once the condition resolves, your nipple should return to normal.

Getting a Clear Diagnosis:

Visit your doctor if you have duct ectasia symptoms that don't respond to self-care, or are painful. You may need to have a breast ultrasound or mammogram to get a clear diagnosis of the problem.

Self-Care Tips for Duct Ectasia:

If your ducts become swollen, your nipple may feel tender and irritated. You can get relief from this condition by using warm packs, but if that doesn't help, see your doctor.

Treatments for Duct Ectasia:

Duct ectasia can sometimes result in infection – if this happens, you may need to take antibiotics. In cases when the ducts will not return to normal size, they can be surgically removed, without causing a great change in the appearance of your breast. This procedure is called Hadfield's operation.

Mammary Duct Ectasia Does Not Increase Your Risk for Breast Cancer:

According to the American Cancer Society, having mammary duct ectasia usually does not increase your risk of developing breast cancer. This condition is considered a non-proliferative lesion (cells which have changed, but are not growing or spreading in an uncontrolled way).
Sources:
American Cancer Society. Detailed Guide: Breast Cancer. What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer? Revised: 09/13/2007.

American Cancer Society. Non-Cancerous Breast Conditions. Duct Ectasia. Revised: 09/26/2006.

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