Q: “I am concerned about some discharge from one of my breasts. If I squeeze the nipple, I get a dark greenish fluid. Sometimes it also occurs spontaneously. I mentioned this during my last physical exam, but my mammogram appeared to be OK. Should I do anything else, or just wait for my next mammogram? If it’s nothing to be concerned about, what is causing it?”
Answer from Heidi Nelson, M.D., M.P.H., medical director of Providence Women and Children’s Program and Providence Women and Children’s Health Research Center:
Without examining you myself, I can’t say for sure what is causing your nipple discharge. But I can offer a few reassuring words: Nipple discharge is rarely a sign of cancer.
Unusual nipple discharge is one of the top three breast concerns that women bring up with their doctors (lumps and breast pain are the first two). We see it most often in older women (the chances of having it increase with age) and in women who have had multiple pregnancies.
In addition to your question about green fluid, I’ve recently heard from women asking about sticky grayish-black fluid and about milky yellow fluid. The color and consistency of the fluid can help determine what is causing the discharge.
For example, here are some common conditions that can cause fluid discharge, and the types of discharge they may cause (although there may be variations):
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