Surgical management of nipple discharge

Eur J Gynaecol Oncol. 2006;27(3):275-8.


Purpose: Nipple discharge is reported in 2.5-3% of women with breast carcinoma. Breast carcinoma is found in approximately 8% of surgically treated patients presenting with bloody nipple discharge (ND).

Methods: In the present study 110 women with ND as a presenting symptom were examined. The discharge was spontaneous in 76 and elicited in 11 patients.

Results: After surgical intervention benign breast disease was found in 85% of patients. Thirteen women (15%) were found to have malignancy and underwent additional surgery. Cytology of the discharge was positive or suspicious for malignancy in only seven out of 13 patients found to have in situ or invasive carcinoma.

Conclusion: Women with spontaneous, single duct ND, especially when it is darkish or bloody, should have cytological examination of the fluid and mammography according to their age or additional clinical findings. Most of them will require a microdochectomy, as the possibility of finding a carcinoma among those women is between 10-15%. However, single duct papilloma is the most common cause of bloody discharge.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Breast Diseases / diagnosis
  • Breast Diseases / surgery*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Cytodiagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography
  • Middle Aged
  • Nipples / metabolism*