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Surgical management of pathologic nipple discharge

Roshni Rao, MD
Section Editor
Anees B Chagpar, MD, MSc, MA, MPH, MBA, FACS, FRCS(C)
Deputy Editor
Wenliang Chen, MD, PhD


Nipple discharge is the third most common breast-related complaint, after breast pain and breast mass. During their reproductive years, up to 80 percent of women will have an episode of nipple discharge [1]. Nipple discharge is categorized as normal milk production (lactation), physiologic nipple discharge, or pathologic (suspicious) nipple discharge. The most common causes of pathologic nipple discharge are benign intraductal papilloma (35 to 48 percent), ductal ectasia (17 to 36 percent), and carcinoma (5 to 21 percent) [1].

Surgical management of pathologic nipple discharge is discussed here. Other aspects of nipple discharge are discussed elsewhere. (See "Nipple discharge".)


Pathologic nipple discharge is defined by the presence of one or more of the following:

Unilateral nipple discharge

Bloody nipple discharge

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: May 23, 2017.
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