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Also known as mammary duct ectasia, duct ectasia of the breast is a benign (non-cancerous) breast condition that develops when a milk duct in the breast widens and the walls thicken. The thickening allows the duct to get filled with fluid leading it to become blocked with a thick and sticky substance.

The condition normally occurs in women during menopause, but it can as well happen after menopause. In most cases, duct ectasia improves without treatment. The condition does not increase an individual’s risk for breast cancer.

Causes of Duct Ectasia of the Breast

The exact causes of duct ectasia of the breast are not yet fully known, but medical experts have speculated its causes may be attributed to the following:

  • Smoking: Smoke from cigarettes may lead to the widening of milk ducts, which can cause inflammation and, most likely duct ectasia.
  • Changes in breast tissue due to aging: The composition of an individual’s breast tissue changes normally from glandular to mostly fatty as aging takes place, a process called involution.
  • Nipple inversion: An inverted nipple may obstruct milk ducts which can result in inflammation and possibly an infection. A newly inverted nipple could be a red flag for serious underlying conditions like cancer.

Diagnosis of Duct Ectasia of the Breast

Duct ectasia of the breast usually does not present symptoms. It is commonly found during a biopsy, a procedure that involves the removal of small breast tissue, which are sent to the lab for further evaluation under a microscope.

On very rare circumstances, duct ectasia may present symptoms which include:

  • Nipple discharge which appears sticky and thick
  • The nipple and the tissue surrounding it might become tender and reddish
  • The nipple may also appear to be pulled inwards

A hard lump that is occasionally caused by scar tissue around the abnormal duct could be mistaken for cancer therefore, a mammogram and/or breast ultrasound may be performed by the doctor to evaluate the changed part of the breast.

Complications of Duct Ectasia of the Breast

If left untreated, duct ectasia of the breast may lead to the following complications:

  • Infection in the affected milk duct
  • The redness, swelling, and tenderness around the nipple may cause breast discomfort
  • Nipple discharge
  • Worrisome concerns about breast cancer. A person may get worried about breast changes especially if she develops a hard lump around the nipple. Normally some breast changes are thought to be an indication of cancer in many people.

Treatment for Duct Ectasia of the Breast

Duct ectasia that does not present any symptoms often gets better without any form of treatment. In some cases where the condition may lead to discomfort, warm compresses and antibiotics may be recommended. However, if the symptoms do improve or go away, surgical intervention to remove the abnormal or affected breast duct may be necessary.

 

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