Discharge draining from the breast

What defines discharge?

According to healthline.com, nipple discharge is basically any fluid that is leaking out of the nipple. You may need to squeeze the nipple for the fluid to come out or it may come out involuntarily. When is it common to occur? Nipple discharge is typically present during a woman’s reproductive years. The discharge can vary in texture, color, and odor.

I′m not pregnant and have discharge!

While it’s isn’t typical, women who are not pregnant can experience discharge from their nipple. Lactating while not pregnant is also known as galactorrhea and can happen for various reasons. According to healthline.com, 20-25 percent of women experience galactorrhea. It may not be abnormal but it is suggested to have your doctor evaluate the discharge to test for infection or possible cancer.

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Why does it occur?

  • Duct papilloma
  • Breast infection
  • Breast abscess
  • Birth control pills
  • Excess stimulation of the breast or nipple
  • Fibrocystic breasts
  • Drugs usage
  • Hormone changes
  • Menopause
  • Breast injury
  • Blocked milk duct
  • Prolactinoma
  • Underactive thyroid gland
  • Breast cancer


  • Fatigue
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Fever
  • Breast size changes
  • Missed menstrual cycle
  • Breast pain or tenderness
  • Breast lump
  • Breast swelling
  • Nipple changes
  • Redness

An infection of the breast or nipple

Cyst(s) may be present
Mammary duct ectasia (blocked milk duct)
Breast cancer, especially if it’s coming from one breast only
Papilloma or breast cancer

When to seek help?

Nipple discharge is usually harmless with nothing to worry about but it is still recommended to seek your physicians advise to be sure. It is particularly important to see your doctor if you have one of the following simultaneous issues:

  • Only one breast having discharge
  • Pain in your breast
  • Discharge is nonstop
  • Bloody discharge
  • Changes in nipple color
  • Crusting on the nipple
  • Breast lump

What to expect at the doctor?

You can expect the doctor to perform one or more of the following tests regarding breast discharge.

  • Ultrasound. Using sound waves, the doctor will create pictures of the inside of the breast to view abnormalities.
  • Mammogram. This will take x-rays of the breast to check for breast cancer.
  • Ductogram. Using mammography and a contrast material that’s injected into the breast, pictures are taken of the milk ducts inside the breast.
  • Biopsy. Your doctor will remove a piece of tissue of the breast to check for breast cancer.

More on Galactorrhea


  • Medications
  • Underlying medical issues
  • Tumors
  • Overstimulation of the nipples


  • Leaking from nipples that happens at random
  • Enlargement of breast tissue
  • Missed or irregular periods
  • Loss of or lowered sex drive
  • Nausea
  • Acne
  • Abnormal hair growth
  • Headaches
  • Vision trouble

Types of medications may cause Galactorrhea:

  • Antipsychotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Birth control
  • Heartburn medications
  • Certain painkillers
  • Blood pressure medicines
  • Medications that contain hormones

Conditions that may cause Galactorrhea:

  • Thyroid issues
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Chronic stress
  • Tumors or disease of the hypothalamus
  • Any trauma or damage to breast tissue
  • High levels of estrogen (in newborns)

Other reasons may include drug use and breast stimulation.

Discharge and breast cancer

Discharge from the breast can be an early sign of breast cancer, especially if the discharge is only coming from one breast. It is likely that you would have a lump in the breast that is discharging. A low percentage of women with nipple discharge are diagnosed with cancer but it is suggested to have the discharge looked at by a physician for a proper diagnosis.

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