Intraductal Papillomas

Intraductal papillomas are unusual, wart-like growths of gland tissue, fibrous tissue, and blood vessels. These small tumors are often found in the large milk ducts near the nipple, and can cause bloody discharge from the nipple. Intraductal papillomas are also found in small ducts in areas of the breast further from the nipple. In this case, there will often be several growths. Papillomas occur most frequently in women between ages 35-55 and may be found in one or both breasts.

The symptoms of intraductal papillomas include:

  • Pain in the breast
  • Nipple discharge, which may be clear or bloodstained
  • Staining of the bra or clothing
  • A lump in the breast
  • Breast enlargement

In cases where the papilloma is large enough to be felt, a needle biopsy can be conducted. Other tests include a mammogram, although mammograms do not always reveal papillomas. An ultrasound may be conducted, or a test called a ductogram. During a ductogram, contrast dye is injected into the affected duct, and an x-ray is taken. In some cases, a biopsy is necessary to make a definitive diagnosis and rule out the presence of cancer.

The usual treatment is to remove the papilloma and a part of the duct in which it is found, usually through an incision at the edge of the areola, which is the darker colored area of skin around the nipple.

Providers are not certain what causes intraductal papillomas, and risk factors for this condition are not currently known. A single papilloma does not increase the risk of breast cancer, but women who have multiple papillomas or who get them at an early age may be at increased risk for developing cancer later in life.