‘What’s Up Doc’ is a health column in association with The Crawley Observer, which gives you the opportunity to ask questions regarding general health and wellbeing.
Answers are provided weekly from our specialist consultants at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital, Surrey. If it’s a long-standing illness or simply a worry which you would like to get off your mind then we would like to help.
This question appeared in The Crawley Observer to readers across Surrey and Sussex. The question and answer is below, as it appeared in the newspaper.
Read the response by Mr Adrian Ball, consultant general surgeon:
Doctor, I have been noticing a strange discharge from my right nipple. It’s a clear, puss like discharge. It’s been happening for the last 4 weeks, so very new to me. What could it be, could it be a sign of breast cancer? Anonymous, Horley.
Nipple discharge can be due to breast cancer but this is very rare. A dozen or so ducts open onto each nipple and discharge from several ducts on each side is usually harmless - especially if the discharge is clear, green or brown in colour - and requires no tests or treatment. Milky discharge from both nipples when not breast feeding may be due to a hormone imbalance or sometimes medication.
Persistent discharge from a single duct on one side that is straw coloured or bright red blood usually requires further tests, including ultrasound, mammography in women over 35 years of age, and often removal of the duct which is a simple day case procedure leaving a small scar. In most cases the cause is a papilloma which is a harmless benign piece of tissue in the duct.
Surgery confirms the diagnosis and stops the discharge. Rarely the tests reveal a cancer which requires more extensive treatment. So nipple discharge should be checked by the GP but is usually not a serious problem.