Chest | Gynecology | Breast Discharge (Symptom)
Breast discharge is the spontaneous flow of fluid from the nipple at any time other than during nursing.
A watery, milky discharge for women who are not pregnant or breast-feeding is known as galactorrhoea.
The main causes of nipple discharge are hormonal changes, infection within the breast, or, more rarely, a breast tumor. Although it is considered normal in a wide variety of circumstances it is the third major reason involving the breasts for which women seek medical attention, after breast lumps and breast pain. It is also known to occur in adolescent boys and girls going through puberty. Discharge is often the result of stimulation of the breasts or by irritation through clothing.
Galactorrhoea is usually due to overproduction of prolactin from the pituitary gland. Some drugs, including some antipsychotics, can cause galactorrhoea as a side effect. A watery discharge from the nipple may be associated with a cancerous breast tumor. A bloodstained discharge from the nipple may also be a symptom of cancer. In the case of breast-feeding women, blocked milk ducts may become infected and produce a discharge of pus from the nipples.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Investigation include physical examination of the breasts, sample of the discharge to be examined for evidence of infection or cancerous cells, X-rays of the breast and ultrasound scanning may be performed. A blood sample may be taken to measure hormone levels.