Dilated Breast Duct: It’s Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Dilated breast duct or duct ectasia is widening and shortening of a milk duct in the breast, the thickness of the duct walls increase and ducts secrete a fluid which is thick and sticky. This fluid and blocks the duct. This is a benign (non-cancerous) condition and there is no increased risk of getting breast cancer due to dilated breast duct.

However, fluid collection in the duct can lead to inflammation of the duct and the surrounding breast tissue (mastitis). Sometimes this may lead to an infection.

Dilated breast duct is commonly seen in women closer to menopause (perimenopausal age), but it is also seen even after menopause. Usually dilated breast duct is seen after the age of 35 years and it is not a condition to worry too much if it does not cause any symptoms.

Dilated Breast Duct: It’s Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Causes Of Dilated Breast Duct

The exact cause for dilated breast duct is unknown, but doctors think it might be due to:

Changes In The Breast Due To Aging: With aging, the breast tissue composition changes from glandular to fatty tissue. This change might cause the ducts to widen, short and fill with fluid which leads to the inflammation of the ducts and breast tissue.

Smoking: Research has found that smoking causes widening of the milk ducts which leads to inflammation and dilated breast duct.

Nipple Inversion: Usually the nipple is protrude outwards, nipple inversion is when the nipple is not seen protruded out but rather inverted. Inversion of the nipple can block the milk ducts and cause dilated breast duct.

Symptoms And Signs Of Dilated Breast Duct

It usually doesn’t cause any symptoms but sometimes symptoms can occur

  • Nipple discharge – dirty white or black nipple discharge from the affected breast/s
  • Pain in the nipple and the surrounding area
  • Redness of the nipple and surrounding area
  • Breast lump is felt sometimes due to clogged ducts
  • Inverted nipple – nipple that is not protruded out

Diagnosis Of Dilated Breast Duct

Your doctor will do a physical examination and afterwards order some test to confirm the diagnosis

Diagnostic Mammography: Diagnostic mammogram gives better information of the breast than the screening mammogram. It will show the dilated ducts better. If there are any breast lumps it also can be seen from the mammogram.

Ultrasound Scan Of The Nipple And Areola: This allow the doctor to visualize the milk ducts that lie beneath the nipple.

Biopsy: Biopsy can be done if there is a lump, a tissue sample of the lump can be taken to examine under the microscope to see if there are cancer cells.

Treatment For Dilated Breast Duct

Dilated breast duct does not always need treatment, if the symptoms are troubling then you can get treatment. Treatment options are:

Pain Medication: A mild pain killer like acetaminophen or ibuprofen is adequate.

Antibiotics: If there is an infection antibiotics is needed.

Surgery: If conservative management with pain killers and antibiotics does not work the affected milk ducts can be surgically removed.

Summary

Dilated breast duct is widening and shortening of a milk duct in the breast, the walls of the duct becomes thick and filled with a fluid which is thick and sticky. This fluid and blocks the duct. This is a benign (non-cancerous) condition and there is no increased risk of getting breast cancer due to dilated breast duct. However, fluid collection in the duct can lead to inflammation of the duct and the surrounding breast tissue (mastitis). It is common in women closer to menopause. The causes can be: changes in the breast due to aging, smoking and nipple inversion. Most of the time there are no symptoms but can have nipple discharge, pain and tenderness in the breast and inverted nipple. Diagnosis is through history, examination and investigations. Pain medication can be given for the pain, antibiotics if there is an infection, if these fail surgery to remove the affected ducts.

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