Duct Ectasia

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.

Duct ectasia (ek-TAY-zhuh), also known as mammary duct ectasia, occurs when a milk duct in the breast widens and its walls thicken, which can cause the duct to become blocked and lead to fluid build-up. It’s common in women who are getting close to menopause. But it can happen after menopause, too.


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 breast problem.

Less often, duct ectasia may cause a sticky green or black nipple 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. An ultrasound and/or mammogram may be done to learn more about the changed part of your breast.

If there’s a lump, a biopsy may be needed to make sure it’s not cancer. (This is when a hollow needle is used to take a tiny piece of tissue from the area so it can be checked under a microscope for cancer cells.)


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.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Schnitt SJ, Collins LC. Pathology of benign breast disorders. In: Harris JR, Lippman ME, Morrow M, Osborne CK, eds. Diseases of the Breast. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2010:69-85.

Last Medical Review: March 16, 2015 Last Revised: April 21, 2016

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