Mammary Duct Ectasia

1 What is Mammary Duct Ectasia?

When a milk duct under your nipple broadens, it is called mammary duct ectasia. It is when the duct walls became thick and it fills up with fluids. A thick sticky substance will block the milk duct.

There are no known symptoms but some may have breast tenderness, inflammation of the blocked duct which is periductal mastitis and nipple discharge and mostly it occurs in women who are in perimenopausal stage (45-55 years of age) but it can also happen too after a menopausal stage.

If you have these symptoms, you can visit a doctor for prescription drugs or antibiotics or you can go through surgery to remove the affected area. But often times it improves without any treatment.

Periductal mastitis and mammary duct ectasia are not risk factors for breast cancer, but if you want to make sure go see a physician.

2 Symptoms

There are no known symptoms or signs if you have mammary duct ectasia.

Some women may show signs and symptoms which include: breast tenderness, redness of the surrounding area or the nipple itself, a dirty greenish discharge from one of the nipples, a sticky substance that can block the milk duct, an inverted nipple, fever and inflammation of the plugged milk duct which is periductal mastitis.

If you think you have mammary duct ectasia, go see your physician so it will not bother you anymore and you will feel at ease.

3 Causes

Experts don't know exactly what causes mammary duct ectasia. Some speculate the cause to be associated with age– our breast tends to change due to growing old.

Our breasts have connective tissues which have milk ducts that carry milk to our nipples. When a milk duct below the nipple broadens becoming plugged with a dirty sticky substance with inflammation, it is called mammary duct ectasia.

The composition of your breast tissue changes as you grow old. This is called involution. Involution in the breast is aging in breast tissue.

Smoking may also lead to mammary duct ectasia or inverted nipple. An inverted nipple may stop you from making milk that can lead to infection or inflammation.

Cancer can also be an effect of an inverted nipple.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Making a diagnosis of mammary duct ectasia is done by performingseveral tests.

If you can feel a breast lump or bump, contact your physician and set an appointment. You may be referred to a breast health specialist depending on the findings or results of your ultrasound or mammogram.

You will be asked first by the doctor, mainly focusing on your medical history and the symptoms you are experiencing, even your cycle.

Write down the symptoms you are experiencing even unrelated issues which make you feel uncomfortable that makes you want to see a doctor. Also, write down what are the things or situations that are stressing you out.

Write a list of all the medicines, supplements that you are taking regularly. If you don’t want to forget the questions you want to ask the physician, write it down too so you are sure that both of you discussed what needs to be discussed.

Here are some examples of the questions that you can ask:

  • What is mammary duct ectasia?
  • What are the reasons causes of mammary duct ectasia?
  • What treatment do you suggest?
  • How much is the treatment?
  • Is there an over the counter in the pharmacy?
  • What are the preventions?
  • Will this affect my everyday life? 

Your physician may ask you also like:

  • When did you start seeing the symptoms?
  • For how long are you experiencing these symptoms?
  • Did it change over time or still the same?
  • If you experienced breast pain, can you tell me how often?
  • Is the pain moderate or severe?
  • Do you have a nipple discharge and how would you describe it?
  • Is it only occurring in one of your breasts or two of them?
  • When is your last ultrasound?
  • When is last menstrual cycle?
  • Have you ever been diagnosed with a precancerous breast condition?
  • Have you been diagnosed with benign breast condition before?
  • Have any members of your family had breast cancer?
  • Since you first experience the symptoms until now, did it improve or it became worst? 

The information that you provided are relevant as well as the physical examination, but you might need additional exams such as ultrasound of the nipple and areola because it uses sound waves so that you can see the images of your breast tissue.

Your physician will evaluate the milk ducts below your nipple. Your doctor can evaluate the breast tissue using diagnostic mammography which provides X-ray images of your breast.

It also provides more detailed views of your breast area.

5 Treatment

Mammary duct ectasia sometimes doesn’t need a treatment, but if it bothers you or you are stressing about it, you should ask for options.

Some treatments are Antibiotics, you can ask your physician about this and he will give you a prescription for an antibiotic for 10-14 days or 1-2 weeks to treat infections that occurs because of mammary duct ectasia.

It’s relevant that you follow the prescribed medication and how to take it. Ask for pain medication, depending if you are feeling moderate or severe pain.

If antibiotics and pain medication doesn’t work, surgery is the answer. They will remove the affected milk duct and this is done by making a small incision at the edge of your areola, but this is rarely needed.

6 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with mammary duct ectasia.

You can also self-medicate at home. Try applying warm compress. If you applied it to your nipple, it may reduce the pain that you are experiencing in your breast.

Breast pads or nursing pads can be used for the sticky substance or the nipple discharge so it won’t directly stain your clothing. To minimize discomfort, you should wear comfortable bras or a support bra.

Smoking is prohibited as it may cause more infection or it will make your mammary duct ectasia hard to treat. Do not sleep on the same side of your body, change your sleeping positions.

7 Risks and Complications

The complications of the mammary duct ectasia are not really bothersome, but some may include:

  • nipple discharge,
  • discomfort in your breast,
  • an infection which is periductal mastitis,
  • malaise or fever.

If you didn’t treat the infection, it may lead to a collection of pus in your breast tissue which is known as the abscess.

Do not worry too much about breast cancer because mammary duct ectasia doesn’t increase your risk of breast cancer, but go see a doctor to be sure.

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