The nipple-areolar complex: comprehensive imaging review

Clin Radiol. 2021 Mar;76(3):172-184. doi: 10.1016/j.crad.2020.09.013. Epub 2020 Oct 17.


The nipple-areolar complex can be affected by a variety of benign and malignant entities that can present with non-specific symptoms. Benign pathologies commonly affecting the nipple-areolar complex include nipple calcifications, nipple adenoma, abscess of Montgomery tubercles, ductal ectasia, periductal mastitis, and papilloma. Malignant pathologies that affect the nipple-areolar complex include Paget's disease of the breast, ductal carcinoma in-situ, and invasive ductal carcinoma. Clinical history and examination, imaging, and tissue sampling when appropriate are co-dependent factors that guide the assessment of nipple-areolar pathologies. This article provides a review of the normal anatomy, common anatomical variants, benign and malignant pathologies, and imaging techniques to guide the diagnostic assessment of the nipple-areolar complex.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Breast Diseases / pathology
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Nipples / diagnostic imaging*
  • Nipples / pathology