Mammary Duct Ectasia

What is Mammary Duct Ectasia?

Mammary Duct Ectasia is a condition that primarily affects women around 40 to 50 that are beginning the first stages of menopause. It causes the milk ducts of the breasts to become swollen, thickened in the walls, and clogged.

While it can interfere with the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, it is a benign condition. The condition is primarily caused by age, but smoking can increase the chances of developing it.

What are the Symptoms of Mammary Duct Ectasia?

Detecting a case of mammary duct ectasia in oneself can be very frightening because some of the signs mimic the symptoms of breast cancer.

Symptoms include

  • Discharge from the nipples that is off-white, gray, green, or black
  • A distinct lump or mass felt behind the areola
  • Inverted nipples in a person who does not usually have inversion
  • Tenderness in the breast and nipple
  • Swelling or redness around the nipple

How is Mammary Duct Ectasia Treated?

For short-term cases, most women can wait out the condition and resolve the symptoms without seeking treatment. Applying heat to the breast and nipple can reduce pain and speed up recovery. Benign cases usually clear up within a week or two.

If pain and discharge persists longer or returns regularly, your doctor may recommend a simple surgery to remove the affected ducts. This can end the cycle of mammary duct ectasia without putting you at significant risk for other problems. Unlike the duct infections that can affect younger women, infections are rarely needed for this form of duct ectasia.

Antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent a secondary infection from complicating your healing process after surgery.

Last Reviewed:
October 10, 2016
Last Updated:
August 09, 2017