Breast discharge refers to any fluid that leaks from the breast spontaneously or when stimulated. One in three women are said to experience breast discharge when they massage their breasts. Breast discharges are most often benign and are not a cause for alarm.
What Causes Breast Discharge?
The number one cause of breast discharge is of course lactation during and after pregnancy. But apart from this natural process, there are other benign and malignant causes for breast discharge.
Benign causes include:
- Chronic inflammation of the breast
- Non-cancerous tumour of the milk duct, nipple or the breast
- Enlargement of the milk ducts
- Hormonal changes
- As a side effect of certain medications
Malignant cause includes cancerous tumor in the breast. Any or all of these symptoms could indicate breast cancer: breast discharge is bloody, presence of a lump in the breast, and/or unilateral discharge (discharge from only one breast). Irrespective of whether or not these symptoms are present, it is best to visit your doctor immediately to determine if your breast discharge is due to malignant reasons or not.
Treatment for Breast Discharge
Depending on several factors such as the color of the discharge (white, yellow, bloody, pink or colourless), the frequency, and the consistency, the treatments may include:
- Having the lumps removed
- Having the breast ducts removed (all or some)
- Changing or discontinuing medications that are causing the discharge
- Taking in medications to treat an underlying condition that is resulting in the discharge
- Applying a tropical cream/ointment to the area to stop the discharge (if due to infection)
If the discharge is not very frequent and is not causing you any discomfort, your doctor may even suggest that you ignore it. If your discharge is due to hormonal changes, then this approach works and you will notice that after sometime the discharge stops by itself without any need for external or internal medication. If you’re undergoing some treatment, be aware that treatments can take anywhere from a month to a year to show full results. Once you feel the treatment has been effective, always do a follow up examination of your breasts after a year to make sure there are no new developments or complications.
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Things to Discuss With Your Doctor
Before starting on any treatment or opting to wait it out, you need to consult with your doctor. Doctor’s will typically require:
- Your medical history
- Any relevant lifestyle or dietary changes that could have had an impact
- Information regarding whether or not you’re on the birth control pill
- Whether you are celibate or sexually active
- Details regarding your menstruation cycle (is it regular, the flow, do your experience cramps)
- Family history of breast cancer or any other form of cancer
Do not hesitate to talk to your doctor openly about any doubts that you have or any fears that you harbour. Nothing is too embarrassing to discuss with your doctor, especially when it is in regard with your breast health. Be open about it and have all your doubts clarified for your peace of mind. More often than not, a breast discharge is caused by non-malicious factors and can be treated easily.
Regularly examining your breasts is the best way to be aware of any sudden changes that occur in your breast and its surrounding areas. Check your breasts for lumps or other abnormalities (rash, discoloration, or tenderness) and consult your doctor immediately if you find anything out of the ordinary.