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In duct ectasia, there is a swelling of the milk ducts beneath the nipple and thickening of the walls of the milk ducts. The ducts are filled with fluid. It occurs mainly in perimenopausal women aged 40 to 50 years.


​It is speculated that this may be caused by changes due to ageing, smoking and nipple inversion.


Symptoms include:

  • Dirty white, greenish or blackish nipple discharge
  • Tenderness and redness in the nipple and surrounding breast tissue
  • Thickening near the clogged duct
  • Inverted nipple
  • Breast discomfort


​Diagnosis is based on clinical breast examination with ultrasound of the nipple and areola, and mammograms.


​Treatment is largely symptomatic but antibiotics and analgesics may be needed. Supportive management includes:

  • Warm compresses to soothe the painful breast
  • Breast pads to absorb the nipple discharge
  • A good support bra to help minimise breast discomfort
  • Sleeping on the opposite side to help prevent swelling and discomfort to the affected breast
  • Stopping smoking
  • Surgery, which may be considered to excise the affected duct

Cancer Risk

Duct ectasia does not increase the risk of breast cancer.