Non-Cancerous Breast Conditions

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Duct ectasia

Duct ectasia, also known as mammary duct ectasia, is common in women over 50. It occurs when a breast duct widens and its walls thicken, which can cause it to become blocked and lead to fluid build-up.


Often, this condition causes no symptoms and is found on biopsy done for another problem. Less often, duct ectasia may cause a sticky green or black discharge, which is often thick. The nipple and nearby breast tissue may be tender and red. The nipple may be pulled inward. Sometimes scar tissue around the abnormal duct causes a hard lump that may be confused with cancer. If it causes a lump, a biopsy (removing a sample of tissue to examine under the microscope) may be needed.


This condition sometimes improves without treatment, or with warm compresses and antibiotics. If the symptoms do not go away, the abnormal duct can be removed with surgery.

Link to cancer risk

Duct ectasia does not increase breast cancer risk.

Last Medical Review: 03/16/2015
Last Revised: 06/10/2015