Nipple Discharge After Nipple-Sparing Mastectomy With and Without Associated Pregnancy

Clin Breast Cancer. 2019 Aug;19(4):e534-e539. doi: 10.1016/j.clbc.2019.03.003. Epub 2019 Mar 15.


Background: Nipple-sparing mastectomies (NSMs) preserve the intact nipple, including nipple duct orifices. Retained orifices might remain patent and communicate with the underlying reconstruction. We report the incidence and outcomes of nipple discharge after NSM in pregnant and nonpregnant women.

Patients and methods: Retrospective review of all NSMs at our institution from June 2007 to June 2018 was performed. Subsequent pregnancies and nipple discharge were documented. Patient demographic, operative, histopathology, and cancer treatment data were collected. Descriptive analysis was performed for patients who developed nipple discharge.

Results: From June 2007 to June 2018, 2778 NSM procedures were performed in 1620 patients, with a mean age of 48 (range, 20-80) years. Fifteen hundred sixty-eight NSMs were therapeutic and 1210 were for risk reduction. Thirty-three subsequent pregnancies were observed in 27 patients, with a mean age of 33 (range, 26-42) years at NSM. Bilateral or unilateral discharge occurred in 6 of 27 (22%) postpartum patients and resolved spontaneously. At 54 months mean follow-up after NSM (range, 16-98 months) and 23 (range, 1-61) months after delivery, no local-regional recurrences were observed. In 1593 patients without subsequent pregnancy, there were 4 patients (0.25%) treated with bilateral NSM with subsequent unilateral watery nipple discharge. There was no evidence of associated malignancy on physical exam, imaging, or cytology, and with 55 to 110 months follow-up, no new or recurrent cancers have been observed.

Conclusion: Despite extensive removal of nipple and subareolar duct tissue during NSM, milky nipple discharge is possible postpartum. Watery, acellular discharge occurs rarely in nonpregnant patients. To date, no patient with discharge has developed a local recurrence or new breast cancer.

Keywords: Breast reconstruction; Galactorrhea; Lactation; Postpartum; Prophylactic mastectomy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Mastectomy / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nipple Discharge*
  • Nipples / surgery*
  • Organ Sparing Treatments / methods*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult