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Intraductal papilloma

Intraductal papilloma is a benign breast condition. This means it is not cancer.

What is it

A papilloma is a growth a bit like a wart. These can grow inside the ducts of the breast, often near to the nipple. 

Usually ductal papillomas are between 1 and 2cm in size. Sometimes they can be double that, about 4cm. Often there is only one papilloma which can be easily removed. Sometimes there are many of them. In these cases, the whole area containing the papillomas can be removed.

Papilloma is not a cancer and is very unlikely to develop into a cancer. But the cells of the papilloma should be examined under the microscope after it has been removed.

Who gets it

Intraductal papillomas are most common in women over the age of 40, and usually occur as the breast ages and changes. 

Symptoms

You might notice any of the following:

  • a lump
  • a clear or bloodstained discharge coming from the nipple
  • pain or discomfort

Diagnosing intraductal papilloma

Intraductal papillomas are sometimes found at routine breast screening examinations when you have a mammogram, or following breast surgery. They can also be found if you visit your GP with symptoms. The GP will refer you to a breast clinic where you can be seen by a specialist. 

At the specialist clinic you are likely to have:

  • a breast examination
  • a mammogram and/or an ultrasound
  • a fine needle aspiration (FNA), core biopsy or vacuum assisted biopsy.

If you’re a woman under 40, you may have an ultrasound scan rather than a mammogram. This is because younger women’s breast tissue can be dense which can make the x-ray image in a mammogram less clear. But some women under 40 still have a mammogram as part of their assessment. 

Treatment

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

 Atypical hyperplasia 

Intraductal papilloma can be associated with another condition called atypical hyperplasia which means an abnormal growth of cells. There is a risk that the atypical hyperplasia could develop into a breast cancer over time if it is not treated. If there are any atypical cells in the papilloma when the biopsy is examined, they will usually be seen under the microscope.

Multiple papillomas are more likely to be associated with atypical hyperplasia, but this is not always the case. You will need to talk to your doctor about your biopsy result to make sure.

More information

Get more information on the possible causes and risks of breast cancer.

Last reviewed: 
20 Sep 2017
  • Benign Breast Diseases: Classification, Diagnosis, and Management

    M Guray and AA Sahin

    The Oncologist, 2006

    Volume 11, Number 5

  • Benign breast disorders

    R.J. Santen and R. Mansel

    New England Journal of Medicine 2005;353 (3):pages 275-85

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