Breast (nipple) discharge represents leakage of any fluid from the nipple of the breast. Even though many women who are not pregnant and who experience breast discharge immediately think they are suffering from breast cancer, the problem does not have to be so serious and can be easily treated. The most important thing is to report nipple discharge and after certain test and exams the actual cause will be identified.
What can Breast Discharge Mean?
Even though the problem may be quite alarming, there is no reason for a woman to panic. Nipple discharge most commonly occurs due to minor and treatable conditions. However, all women who are neither pregnant nor breastfeeding are due to report breast discharge as soon as possible and never neglect the problem.
Normal vs. Abnormal Breast Discharge
Bloody discharge from the nipple of the breast is never considered normal. Furthermore, one more sign of abnormality is spontaneous leakage of discharge (leakage that occurs without touching or squeezing the breast). Color of the discharge does not help because many colors may be characteristic for both, benign and malignant conditions. The color of breast discharge ranges from white to yellow or even green. Red color is connected to the presence of blood. It is also essential to mention that bilateral discharge (discharge from both nipples) generally points to some benign condition while more problems may occur in case discharge only affects one breast.
Causes of Normal Breast Discharge
Pregnancy, breastfeeding cessation as well as stimulation are three normal causes of nipple discharge. Pregnant women commonly first encounter breast discharge in early stages of pregnancy and later the discharge becomes watery and milky in appearance. Once the woman stops breastfeeding breast discharge remains for a while. And finally, it may be normal to experience breast discharge when breasts are stimulated or squeezed. This can also occur if the nipples are irritated by a bra or some vigorous activities.
Causes of Abnormal Breast Discharge
Breast discharge affects women suffering from many different noncancerous as well as cancerous medical conditions. The problem may be associated with fibrocystic breast changes. In this case discharge is white, yellow or green and originates from the cysts located inside the breasts. Galactorrhea is a term that refers to spontaneous flow of milk from the breasts in women who are neither pregnant nor they breastfeed. Galactorrhea develops as a consequence of pituitary gland tumors, intake of some medications or herbs, hypothyroidism and abuse of certain illegal drugs (marijuana). Furthermore, abnormal breast discharge is seen in case of infections, mammary duct ectasia and intraductal papilloma. And finally, abnormal breast discharge is one of many characteristics of a breast cancer.