A solitary intraductal papilloma is a single tumor that appears near the nipple, in the largest milk duct.
Symptoms of a solitary intraductal papilloma include nipple discharge, which may be clear or bloody, and a lump behind or next to the nipple.
This condition happens in women mostly, but can occur in men, although only rarely. A breastfeeding woman may notice a small amount of blood in her breast milk.
Multiple intraductal papillomas are smaller and appear in the smaller milk ducts, farther away from the nipple. Because these are smaller and located deeper within the breast, the lumps may be harder to feel. They are also less likely to cause a nipple discharge than a solitary intraductal papilloma.
Intraductal papillomas most commonly affect women between the ages of 35 and 55.
Symptoms of intraductal papilloma can resemble breast cancer or other conditions. For this reason, it is important to see a doctor if any changes in the breast are noticed, including lumps, nipple discharge, pain, or itching.
Diagnosing an intraductal papiloma usually involves getting a mammogram or an ultrasound.
A diagnosis of intraductal papilloma is achieved via:
- an ultrasound of the breast
- a mammogram
Images taken from these tests can determine:
- Size: The treatment may differ depending on the size of the papilloma.
- Location: Some papilloma can be hard to spot with the naked eye.
- Other problems: Checking for any other abnormalities is an important part of getting a diagnosis and ruling out any other issues.
A biopsy may be performed to examine the cells within the papilloma. This helps rule out other conditions, such as atypical ductal hyperplasia and ductal carcinoma in situ. Both of these conditions involve abnormal or precancerous cells in the milk ducts and increase a woman's risk of getting breast cancer in the future.
An intraductal papilloma is typically removed with breast surgery. The process is simple and works like this:
- The growth, and the affected portion of the milk duct, is removed.
- The unaffected areas of the breast are left intact.
- Surgery is done under general anesthesia.
Because part of the milk duct is removed, surgery for intraductal papilloma may cause breast-feeding problems. If a woman is breast-feeding or plans to do so in the future, she should discuss this with her surgeon. For women who are currently breast-feeding, they should talk to a lactation consultant.
Papillomas should be surgically removed and biopsied even though there is only a small risk of cancer.
Intraductal papillomas are not breast cancer, and having one does not mean a person will get breast cancer. However, having multiple papillomas may increase the risk of getting breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
A study published in the Journal of the American Association for Cancer Research suggests that most intraductal papillomas are non-cancerous, but a percentage (17 percent) have been shown to be cancerous.
Another study in the Annals of Surgical Oncology found that 21 percent of intraductal papillomas contained abnormal cells. Because of even the small risk of malignancy (cancer), papillomas should be surgically removed and biopsied.
If a person has been diagnosed with multiple intraductal papillomas, even if the cells are found to be benign, they and their doctor should discuss risk factors for breast cancer and a screening schedule.
If the cells within the intraductal papilloma are found to be non-cancerous, the outlook is typically good once the growth is removed.
If abnormal or cancerous cells are found, possible treatments may include breast cancer medications, additional breast surgery, and more frequent mammograms.
Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent papilloma outright. However, there are some preventative measures women can take to make sure papilloma are diagnosed and treated quickly:
- Breast exams: Seeing a doctor on a regular basis for periodic breast exams increases the likelihood of papillomas, or any other breast problems, being detected early.
- Self-examination: Women can examine their breasts themselves. A doctor can explain the technique, and what to look out for specifically.
- Screening: Mammograms and regular screening greatly increase the likelihood of preventing, diagnosing, and ultimately treating, breast issues.
A doctor should check on any worries relating to breast health as soon as possible.