Intraductal Papillomas

Intraductal papillomas are benign (non-cancer) wart-like tumors that grow within the milk ducts of the breast. 

They are made up of gland tissue along with fibrous tissue and blood vessels (called fibrovascular tissue).

Solitary papillomas or solitary intraductal papillomas are single tumors that often grow in the large milk ducts near the nipple. They are a common cause of clear or bloody nipple discharge, especially when it comes from only one breast. They may be felt as a small lump behind or next to the nipple. Sometimes they cause pain.

Papillomas may also be found in small ducts in areas of the breast farther from the nipple. In this case, there are often several growths (multiple papillomas). These are less likely to cause nipple discharge.

In papillomatosis, there are very small areas of cell growth within the ducts, but they aren’t as distinct as papillomas are. 

Diagnosis

Ductograms are sometimes helpful in finding papillomas. An ultrasound and/or mammogram may be done to learn more about the size and location of papillomas. If the papilloma is large enough to be felt, a biopsy can be done. (This is where tissue is removed from the papilloma and looked at under microscope.)

Treatment

The usual treatment is surgery to remove the papilloma and the part of the duct it’s in. 

How do intraductal papillomas affect your risk for breast cancer?

Having a single (solitary) papilloma does not raise breast cancer risk unless it contains other breast changes, such as atypical hyperplasia. However, having multiple papillomas increases breast cancer risk slightly.1

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.

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Lewis JT, Hartmann LC, Vierkant RA, et al. An analysis of breast cancer risk in women with single, multiple, and atypical papilloma. Am J Surg Pathol. 2006;30:665-672.

1 National Cancer Institute. Understanding Breast Changes: A Health Guide for Women. April 23, 2015. Accessed at www.cancer.gov/types/breast/understanding-breast-changes on June 14, 2016.

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Tatarian T, Sokas C, Rufail M, et al. Intraductal papilloma with benign pathology on breast core biopsy: To excise or not? Ann Surg Oncol. 2016 Mar 9. [Epub ahead of print]

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

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