Breast papillomas are wart-like growths in a breast duct (see Figure 1). They are always benign (not cancer). You can have 1 or more papillomas in a duct or in the breasts. Breast papillomas are usually painless. There are no known causes and no risk factors linked to breast papillomas.
A papilloma attaches to the lining of a breast duct by a stalk. Papillomas that are large enough can block the duct.
You may or may not be able to feel a breast papilloma. Breast papillomas are often found behind the nipple but they can be found elsewhere in the breast. The most common sign of a breast papilloma is a sudden and unexpected bloody discharge from the nipple. They may also cause a clear, yellowish, rusty-coloured or red discharge from the nipple.
Breast papillomas most often affect women between the ages of 35 and 50. Women closer to menopause tend to have 1 papilloma, while younger women are more likely to have many papillomas in 1 or both breasts.
Breast papillomas are diagnosed most commonly with an ultrasound and less commonly by a special x-ray called a galactogram.
Not all breast papillomas need to be removed by surgery. If surgery is needed, the duct and the papilloma are removed through a small cut made near the nipple and areola (the dark area around the nipple) or elsewhere on the breast as needed. You will have a local anesthetic to freeze the area before the cut is made. After the duct and papilloma are removed, they are sent to the lab to confirm that the growth is a papilloma.
The surgeon will share the results of the test with you once they come back from the lab. At this time, the surgeon will let you know if you need any further care or treatment.
Current as of: May 24, 2018
Author: Women’s Health, Alberta Health Services
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