A Simple Approach to Nipple Discharge

King, Tari A.; Carter, Kristine M.; Bolton, John S.; Fuhrman, George M.
October 2000
American Surgeon;Oct2000, Vol. 66 Issue 10, p960
Academic Journal
Evaluation and management of patients with nipple discharge (ND) aims to identify carcinoma when present, and in benign cases, stop the discharge when bothersome. We reviewed our recent experience with ND to develop a simple and effective algorithm to manage these patients. Records of all patients with ND evaluated from December 1996 through June 1999 were reviewed. Patients were liberally offered duct excision for a clinical suspicion of malignancy (persistent clear or bloody fluid) or to stop bothersome discharge. Patients with breast imaging abnormalities (mammography or ultrasound) related to their ND underwent biopsy and were considered separately. Of 104 patients with ND, 11 underwent biopsy as a result of mammographic findings; three of these cases proved malignant. The remaining 93 patients were evaluated with 55 tests that did not demonstrate malignancy, including ductography, discharge fluid cytology, serum prolactin and thyroid-stimulating hormone levels, and image-guided breast or nipple biopsy. Thirty-nine patients underwent duct excision with only a single patient demonstrating malignancy. Clinical follow-up has not identified malignancy in any patient managed nonoperatively. When diagnostic breast imaging is negative, malignancy related to ND is uncommon. Patients with ND should have diagnostic breast imaging and, if it is negative, should be offered duct excision. There is little role for ductography, cytology, or laboratory studies in evaluating these patients. INSET: DISCUSSION.


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