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For the week of: 8/9/99

Question: "Generally speaking, what would cause a bloody discharge from the nipple of only one breast in a healthy woman?"


Answer: In general, breast discharges are one-sided because they come from a single nipple duct. The vast majority of nipple discharges are benign (non-cancer) conditions. 

The most common causes are known as ductal ectasia and papillomatosis.

Approximately 2-3% of all bloody nipple discharges are associated with an underlying malignancy (cancer). Frequently, a small amount of the discharge is smeared on a slide and send to the Pathology Laboratory for Cytology (microscopic analysis - very similar to a Pap Smear).

If this is benign, but the condition persists, then a biopsy may be warranted to definitively rule out the small chance of an underlying malignancy.

By Kenneth D. Hagan, M.D.
General Surgeon
General Surgery Group. P.A.


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