Mammary Duct Ectasia occurs when a milk duct beneath your nipple becomes wider or clogged. The duct walls become thick and the duct becomes filled with fluid. The secretions may undergo calcification and this may be the presenting sign. It is a disorder of women post-menopausal age, thus the chance of developing mammary duct ectasia increases with age. Though it can mimic breast cancer, it is not a symptom of breast cancer.
Signs and Symptoms
Having mammary duct ectasia, you may have:
- A small lump under the nipple
- Tenderness and irritation in the nipple or surrounding areas
- Nipple may retract (pull inwards), invert, or feel pain
- Dirty white, greenish or black nipple discharge from one or both nipples
- Redness of the nipple
Anatomically, breasts are made up of connective tissues that include milk ducts or tiny passages that carry milk to the nipples. Although there is no exact reason why this mammary gland ectasia happens, there are several causes why women experience this and may associate to some factors.
- Aging. As women age, the breast tissue also changes from mostly glandular to mostly fatty. This change can lead to blockage of the duct and inflammation.
- Stagnant secretion. The duct widening may be a result of slowing down or stoppage of the secretion.
- Smoking. Cigarette smoking may be associated with widening of milk ducts, thus resulting to inflammation and possibly mammary duct ectasia.
- Nipple inversion. The inward pulling of the nipple may obstruct the milk ducts, resulting to inflammation.
If left untreated, it may lead to complications. While some are usually minor, it can also be troubling and serious. These may include:
- Nipple discharge problems. The secretions from your nipples can cause wetness and staining on your clothes.
- Breast discomfort like redness, swelling, and tenderness.
- Infection may develop in the affected milk duct causing pain and even fever. If untreated would lead to a collection of pus in the breast tissue.
- Concern about breast cancer can be worrisome. When you see a change in your breast, you may think that it is a sign of cancer. While it is important to check the signs and symptoms bear in mind that mammary duct ectasia does not increase the risk of breast cancer.
Test and Diagnosis
To determine the disease, tests should be done accordingly. There are non-invasive procedures to find out whether you have mammary duct ectasia like physical examination, diagnostic mammography and diagnostic ultrasound. Factors should also be considered like age of the patient, size of the breast and also whether or not a lump is palpable.
If you have this condition, you can have some measures to do at home:
- Apply warm compress to reduce pain and swelling
- Wear breast pad to keep the fluid from leaking
- Wear a support bra for good support and minimize discomfort
- Sleep on the opposite side to prevent discomfort and swelling
- Stop smoking to reduce risk of recurrent infections
In treating this disease, relieving symptoms is one of the major considerations. Those who are affected by the condition may take pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If there is any suspicion of infection at the site of inflammation, it should be treated with an antibiotic. Wearing supporting bra may also help in alleviating pain.
Surgical procedures can also be of help where both antibiotics and other treatment do not relieve the symptoms or if the condition recurs. However, surgery is rarely needed.
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