Breast and Nipple Discharge Types and Symptoms: Should I See a Doctor?

Breast and Nipple Discharge: What It Could Mean: The fluid secretions that are seen to ooze out of the nipple in lactating or nonlactating matrons are termed as a nipple discharge. Each breast is made up of 15-20 milk ducts and the fluids are seen to be expelled out of one of these ducts. The fluids need to be either squeezed to remove or in some cases, seeps out by itself.

The nipple discharge is commonly seen during the reproductive years irrespective of women being pregnant, breastfeeding, or not pregnant. While in most cases nipple secretions are not something to worry but in some cases it can be an indication of some minor disorder.

Different Types of Nipple Discharge and Its Signs?

Nipple secretions can arise due to various reasons, the color of the discharge indicates the underlying cause. The different nipple secretions are commonly seen include White, cloudy, yellow, or pus-filled

These nipple fluids are commonly seen when the breast or nipple has contracted an infection.

Green: Predominantly this nipple discharge signifies the presence of cysts in the nipple or breasts.

Brown or cheese like : This nipple fluid is commonly seen in lactating mother when there is a milk duct blockage. Clear

A clear discharge, especially in one breast, is one of the indications of a probable breast leukemia that needs further medical attention.

Bloody: This nipple secretion is usually during the contraction of papilloma or can also be a sign of breast cancer.

The texture of the discharge may vary from thin, thick, or sticky. The secretion can be expelled from one or both the nipples and can seep out of its own or needs to be squeezed out.

Some of the common signs that are known to accompany the nipple secretion include

  • Breast tenderness
  • Bust pain
  • Swelling of the nipple
  • Presence of lumps in the breast or around the nipple.
  • Nipple deformations like inward, scaling, itching, dimpling, or color changes.
  • Redness in the bosom.
  • Changes in the bust size where one breast is larger than the other.
  • Missed menstrual cycle.
  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea or vomiting.

What Are The Causes of Nipple Discharge?


Breast secretions are a commonly seen in pregnant women from the early conception stages. Clear secretions are noticed in the primary stages of conception which in the later stages may take on a watery or milky appearance.

Lactating Mothers

Breastfeeding mothers will notice nipple discharge up to three years posts stopping to breastfeed.


The nipples have a tendency to secrete fluid when they are either squeezed or stimulated. Normally when the nipple rubs excessively with the tight fitting bra nipple secretions are noticed. Even in vigorous, physical training nipple discharges can take place.

However, even in nonpregnant and nonfeeding mothers, the expulsion of nipple fluid is also seen. The other probable causes of experiencing breast discharges include:

  • Oral contraceptive pills.
  • Bust infections or pustules.
  • Duct papilloma a harmless wart-like growth seen in the milk duct.
  • Anti-depressants and tranquilizers that increase the milk-producing hormone prolactin.
  • Increased nipple and breast stimulation.
  • Fibrocystic bust disease.
  • Hormonal imbalances during menstrual or menopausal stages.
  • Breast injury.
  • Mammary duct blockage.
  • A non-leukemic tumor of the pituitary gland termed as “prolactinoma”.
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Bust leukemia

What can be the reason behind abnormal bust secretions?

A preliminary medical examination will help to determine if the nipple secretion is normal or abnormal.

If the medical examiner detects the breast discharge to be an abnormal one they will further prescribe some tests to be conducted which will give the exact cause of the nipple discharge.

What are the laboratory tests that are routinely performed for an abnormal breast discharge?

The tests predominantly prescribed to detect the abnormal areola secretions include:

  • Lab analysis of the secreted fluid.
  • Routine blood and urine tests to rule out pregnancy chances.
  • Mammogram or ultrasound of one or both busts.
  • A computed tomographical scan of the brain.
  • Biopsy: surgical excision and testing of one or more ducts in the areola.
  • Ductogram: A test is done to take the pictures of the milk ducts to detect the presence of cancer in them.

What are the possible manifestations of an abnormal bust secretion?

The possible causes of an abnormal secretion include:

Fibrocystic bust changes

This breast change refers to the presence of cysts or development of fibrous tissue in the bust area. The changes may include the presence of lumps or thickenings in the breast tissues. They do not necessarily indicate the presence of cancer in the bust. The symptoms of a fibrocystic breast deformations include bust pain, itching and at times secretion of a clear, white, yellow or green nipple fluid expulsion are noticed.


Galactorrhea is a condition where a milky white discharge or milk secretion is noticed in nonlactating matrons. This is not an ailment and can be caused due to the following reasons:

  • Hormonal and psychotropic drugs.
  • Herbs like anise and fennel.
  • Illegal drugs like marijuana use.
  • Underactive thyroid.


The infection contracted in the areola region is termed as “mastitis”. This is a common condition the is seen in breastfeeding women. The common symptoms noticed here are:

warm busts with breast soreness and redness.

Mammary duct ectasia

This condition is predominantly seen in menopausal matrons. here the bust seems to be swollen with the presence of blocked duct in the areola region. A greenish nipple secretion is seen to be expelled during this condition.

Intraductal papilloma

Noncancerous growths in the breast ducts noticed in a larger population of women. When the areola duct swells up bloody or sticky fluid secretions are experienced.

What is the relationship between cancer and areola discharge?

Most of the nipple discharges noticed are due to medical benign conditions. A nipple secretion accompanied by lumps in the bust or an abnormal mammogram and discharge from one areola is an indication of a breast leukemia.

The contracted breast cancers in women are

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

An early form of bust cancer that is seen to develop in the milk ducts underneath the nipple.

Paget’s ailment

This is a rare condition that kicks off in the bust ducts and moves to the areola. Bloody discharge is a common symptom of the Paget’s disease which is seen to develop with other cancer forms.

When to seek help from a healthcare provider?

A doctor needs to be consulted when the following deformations are noticed:

  • Presence of lumps in the breast.
  • Areolar color changes.
  • Bust pain
  • Bloody nipple or breast secretion.
  • Discharge oozes out of only one nipple.
  • Nipple discharges are seen in more than one menses cycle.

Delay in consulting a doctor by one or two days is not harmful if the discharge is not accompanied by signs such as inflammation, redness, or pus discharges.

What are the common questions that can be expected during the doctor’s visit?

The practitioner may shoot the following questions during the first visit:

  • When did the secretion start?
  • Is the discharge seen to ooze out of one or both?
  • Does the secretion seep out by itself or is seen only on squeezing?
  • What are the accompanying signs noticed?
  • What are the medications taken by you?
  • Are you pregnant or lactating?

What are the treatment options for an areolar discharge?

Medications can treat most of the nipple secretions. If a noncancerous nipple secretion is noticed to ooze out of only one breast, the causal duct may be excised. This is a short process that only requires a local anesthesia and doesn’t require a hospitalization.

The nipple discharges that are experienced by many women is normal only 3-9% of the population who sought a doctors help are seen to have bust cancers. It’s always a wise idea to seek medical help when the discharge is accompanied by a new symptom that is not experienced by a matron before.



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