Current Treatment Options in Oncology

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 157–161 | Cite as

Management of bloody nipple discharge

  • Hernan I. Varga
  • Lina Romero
  • Rowan T. Chlebowski

Opinion statement

Bloody nipple discharge causes a high degree of anxiety in women because of fear of breast cancer. Commonly, the absence of palpable or mammographic abnormalities gives a false sense of security, causing delays in diagnosis. Initial evaluation with physical examination and mammography is useful in detecting high-risk cases. Bloody nipple discharge is most frequently benign. It is caused by intraductal papilloma, duct ectasia, and less frequently by breast cancer. Several diagnostic tests have been proposed to establish the cause of bloody nipple discharge. Galactography, ultrasound, and exfoliative cytology are useful only when positive, but have a high rate of false-negative results and do not preclude histologic diagnosis. More recently, ductal lavages in combination with cytology have provided promising results, but experience and long-term follow-up are limited. Traditional treatment is surgical excision of the involved ductal system from which the discharge emanates. Ductal excision has been the only reliable procedure in establishing a certain diagnosis and in controlling the bloody discharge. The early success reported with image-guided excision of papilloma and duct endoscopy promises a significant improvement in our diagnostic accuracy from minimally invasive emerging technology.


Nipple Discharge Ductal Lavage Intraductal Papilloma Inverted Nipple Exfoliative Cytology 
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Copyright information

© Current Science Inc 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hernan I. Varga
    • 1
  • Lina Romero
  • Rowan T. Chlebowski
  1. 1.Department of Surgery, Division of Surgical OncologyHarbor-UCLA Medical CenterTorranceUSA

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