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 when a biopsy (removing a piece of tissue to checked under a microscope)is 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 may be needed.


Duct ectasia sometimes gets better without treatment. Warm compresses and antibiotics may be used in some cases. If the symptoms do not go away, the abnormal duct may be removed with surgery.

How does duct ectasia affect your risk for breast cancer?

Duct ectasia does not increase your breast cancer risk.

Last Medical Review: 03/16/2015
Last Revised: 04/21/2016