Nipple discharge

Nipple discharge isn't usually a sign of anything serious. But it’s a good idea to see your GP to get it checked just in case, (see symptoms in ‘when to see your GP’ section below).

Nipple discharge is often normal

Lots of women have nipple discharge from time to time. It may just be normal for you.

It's also not unusual for babies (boys and girls) to have milky nipple discharge soon after they're born. This should stop in a few weeks.

Nipple discharge in men isn't normal.

The colour of your discharge isn't a good way of telling if it's anything serious. Normal discharge can be lots of colours.

When to see your GP

See a GP if you have nipple discharge and any of these:

  • it happens regularly and isn't just a one-off
  • it only comes from one breast
  • it's bloodstained or smelly
  • you're not breastfeeding and it leaks out without any pressure on your breast
  • you're over 50
  • you have other symptoms – such as a lump, pain, redness or swelling in your breast
  • you're a man

It's probably nothing serious. But there's a small chance it could be cancer so it's best to get checked.

At your appointment, your GP will look at and examine your breasts.

They may refer you to a hospital or breast clinic for further tests.

What happens at the breast clinic

At the hospital or breast clinic, you may have a:

  • breast examination
  • scan – usually a breast X-ray (mammogram) or ultrasound
  • biopsy – where a needle is inserted into your breast to remove some cells for testing

The tests are often done during the same visit.

You'll usually be told the results on the same day, although biopsy results can take longer – you should get them in a week or two.

Causes of nipple discharge

Nipple discharge has many possible causes. Common causes include:

  • breastfeeding or pregnancy – see leaking nipples in pregnancy
  • a blocked or enlarged milk duct
  • a small, non-cancerous lump in the breast
  • a breast infection (mastitis)
  • a side effect of a medicine – including the contraceptive pill

Breast Cancer Care has more on common conditions that can cause nipple discharge.

Nipple discharge by itself isn't usually a sign of breast cancer.

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

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