Mammary duct ectasia

  • By Dr. Arijit Ghosh

Signs and Symptoms

In most of the cases, female patients do not have any symptom. In few cases, women may present with nipple discharge, tenderness or inflammation of the surrounding region. In some cases, there may be a lump over the breast or the nipple may get inverted.


Exact cause of mammary duct ectasia is unknown. But few possible cause or risk factors have been proposed by the doctors :

  1. Increasing age - Probability of developing mammary duct ectasia increases with age. With ageing, the breast changes its nature. Glandular tissue is replaced by fatty tissue. This change may lead to duct ectasia.
  2. Smoking- Milk ducts are widened due to smoking. This increases risk of inflammation which may lead to duct Ectasia.
  3. Inverted nipple – Inverted nipple obstructs the milk duct. It may lead to inflammation followed by duct ectasia.


Complications of duct ectasia may be may be of varying severity. They are usually minor, but sometimes become serious.

  1. Localized discomfort- Discomfort occurs due to pain and swelling around the nipple.
  2. Nipple discharge – Ectasia is frequently associated with discharge of thick and sticky fluid from nipple.
  3. Infection- Bacterial infection may develop due to stagnation of fluid in the milk duct. If it is neglected, it may lead to localized collection of pus known as abscess. Abscess requires surgical treatment. Abscess is drained surgically.


The doctor usually diagnoses duct ectasia by clinical examination. However, few investigations may be required.

  1. Mammography- X-ray of the breast tissue is known as mammography. It helps the doctor to evaluate the breast tissue.
  2. Ultrasound- Ultrasound enables the doctor to evaluate milk ducts beneath the nipple.


Duct ectasia is usually relieved by treatment. Following are the treatment options :

Medications: The doctor prescribes antibiotic therapy for 10 to 14 days. It may be accompanied by mild painkillers like ibuprofen, etc. for initial few days till the remission of the disease sets in. Most of the cases are usually relieved by medications.

Surgery: If duct ectasia is not controlled with medications then the doctor chooses to remove the duct ectasia surgically. Surgery is required very rarely.

Self care measures

Following self-care measures often provides relief to the patients. These remedies can be adopted at home.

  1. The patient may wear a breast pad or support bra.
  2. The patient may apply warm compression to the affected region.
  3. The patient must stop smoking.
  4. The patient may be advised to sleep on the opposite side of the affected breast.

Female patients should be educated regarding mammary duct ectasia so that they can detect possible symptoms of duct ectasia themselves. This will help to prevent possible complications of mammary duct ectasia and early diagnosis will provide early cure.