Intraductal Papillomas of the Breast

Intraductal papillomas are benign (non-cancerous), 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 (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 (x-rays of the breast ducts) 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.)

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.

Treatment

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

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Last Medical Review: September 20, 2017 Last Revised: September 20, 2017

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