Connective tissues in your breast include milk ducts, which are tiny passages that transport milk to your nipples. Milk ducts can become blocked and inflamed, resulting in a disease called mammary duct ectasia, and you may notice a breast lump under the nipple.
Mammary duct ectasia usually occurs in women in their 40s and 50s, during or after menopause. Even though it's normal to be concerned about a breast lump under the nipple, this disease is not a sign of breast cancer, and doesn't increase your risk of breast cancer.
Age related hormonal changes can cause mammary duct ectasia, as well as nicotine from smoking, which causes your milk ducts to widen and become inflamed. "If your nipple suddenly retracts inward instead of pointing out, milk ducts can become inflamed and infected," according to the Mayo Clinic. A newly retracted nipple may also signal a more serious condition, such as cancer.
Although some women do not experience symptoms from mammary duct ectasia, others may experience nipple discharge from one or both nipples, which can be a dirty white, black or greenish colour. Other symptoms can include tenderness and redness in the nipple or surrounding area, and a breast lump or thickening under the nipple.
After your doctor takes a medical history, and performs a physical exam, you may need further tests, which might include an ultrasound, so that your doctor can evaluate your milk ducts under the nipple, a mammogram, to examine the breast tissue, and a sample of your nipple fluid, to be analysed by a lab.
Try these home remedies to reduce discomfort in your breasts: To reduce pain and swelling, apply a warm compress to your nipple area. Wear a good support bra or nursing pad to keep nipple discharge fluid from leaking through your clothes. Don't sleep on the side of your affected breast, to minimise swelling and prevent further discomfort.
Your symptoms may resolve without treatment, but if you have pain or infection, your doctor may prescribe a course of prescription antibiotics for 10 to 14 days. You should take the antibiotics even if you feel better or your symptoms completely disappear. Mild pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may also be taken for breast discomfort. If antibiotics and home remedies aren't effective, you can have the affected milk duct removed, through a tiny incision at the edge of the nipple areola. However, surgery is rarely needed to resolve mammary duct ectasia.