Finding a lump in your breast or hearing the doctor tell you there is a tumor in your breast can be scary and unsettling. Breast tumors are not always indicative of cancer; there are benign breast conditions that can cause lumps. One of these conditions is intraductal papilloma.
Intraductal papilloma is a small, benign (noncancerous) tumor originating in a milk duct in the breast. These tumors are composed of gland and fibrous tissue, as well as blood vessels. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), these tumors are most common in women between the ages of 35 and 55. (NCBI, 2011)
When a single tumor grows in large milk ducts, usually near the nipple, it is called a solitary intraductal papilloma. It is usually felt as a small lump near the nipple and may cause nipple discharge or bleeding. However, this type of lump is not associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. There are no known risk factors for the condition.
Ducts farther away from the nipple are smaller, and papillomas in this area typically manifest clusters of little tumors in these locations. These are called multiple papillomas, and they have been associated with a higher risk of breast cancer.
Sometimes grouped in with intraductal papillomas is a condition called papillomatosis. This is when there is an abnormal overgrowth of cells in the milk ducts. This condition is also associated with a higher risk of breast cancer.
Symptoms for this condition can be generalized, so it is important to see your doctor to discuss any concerns and be examined. Intraductal papilloma can cause breast enlargement, a lump, or pain. Sometimes the lump cannot be felt.
If your doctor suspects intraductal papilloma, they may recommend a breast ultrasound. This imaging test is more effective in showing papillomas than a standard mammogram. Other tests may be performed as well, including:
- breast biopsy to examine the tissue for cancerous cells
- microscopic examination of breast discharge to look for cancer cells
- ductogram, which is an X-ray using contrast dye injected into the duct
Standard treatment for this condition involves surgery to remove the papilloma and the affected part of the milk duct. These tissues will then be tested for the presence of cancerous cells. If tests show cancerous cells in the tissue that was removed, further treatment may be necessary.
Surgical removal is typically curative for one papilloma, and the outlook is very good. Women who have multiple papillomas and women under the age of 35 who are diagnosed with a papilloma should talk with their doctor about their increased risk for breast cancer.
Going through the experience of having intaductal papilloma can be scary. Your doctor can give you information about any support groups or counselors who can help you.
There is no specific way to prevent intraductal papilloma. You can increase the likelihood of early detection by seeing your doctor regularly for breast exams, doing monthly breast self-exams, and having regular screening mammograms. If you have concerns about anything regarding your breast health, call your doctor.