Nipple discharge can be an early symptom of breast cancer, but most cases of nipple discharge are due to benign conditions. The following are guidelines to differentiate benign discharge from discharge that is associated with malignancy:
- Spontaneous Discharge: Discharge that comes out without squeezing is the only type of discharge of concern. If the discharge only occurs with squeezing, ignore it and stop squeezing your breast. Check your bra or night clothes for evidence of spontaneous discharge. If you see a spot, save it and show it to your doctor.
- Color: Worrisome discharge is typically either bloody or clear. Discharge that is green, milky, or other colors is almost always of no concern. Note: if you have large amounts of milky discharge and you are not breast feeding, it should be brought to the attention of your physician. Tests should be done to evaluate for the possibility of a pituitary tumor. Milky discharge with squeezing is not of concern.
- Single verses multiple ducts: If a women squeezes her breast and notes discharge from multiple spots on the nipple, she can be reassured that the discharge is usally nothing to worry about. However, if the discharge is consistently coming from one spot on the nipple, it is of more concern. This observation should be confirmed by her physician.