An intraductal papilloma is a small tumor that can form in the milk ducts of the breast. This is an entirely benign breast disease and does not normally increase cancer risks. In some women, multiple papillomas occurring at once may signal a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer, particularly if there is a family history of breast cancer.
These papillomas form when fibrous tissue begins to overgrow. They usually remain small in size. One of the most obvious symptoms of intraductal papilloma is nipple discharge from one milk duct. Sometimes a small lump may be felt underneath the nipple, but this is not always the case, depending on the position of the lump. One breast may enlarge slightly if the lump grows significantly, and some breast pain may be felt.
Diagnosis of an intraductal papilloma sometimes requires some exclusionary tests to rule out the possibility of cancer. These might include a breast biopsy or a ductogram. During the biopsy, a needle is inserted into the lump to draw out a small sample of fluid or tissue. A ductogram involves an injection of high-contrast dye into the duct, followed by an x-ray. Using the dye in this way allows the lump to show up on an x-ray.
Treatment for an intraductal papilloma is not always required. In some cases the lump is very small, and does not grow any larger. As long as there are no complications, the lump can safely be left in place. If the lump grows large, becomes uncomfortable or painful, or may interfere with milk production or nursing, surgery may be needed to remove it.
Surgery to remove a papilloma is usually a simple procedure. During the surgery a small incision is made near the areola, through which the papilloma and the associated milk duct are removed. Surgery does not usually cause serious side effects, but sometimes the wound site may bleed or become infected. In most cases the surgery does not leave a detectable scar.
There is no preventative treatment for intraductal papilloma. In addition, since there are no known causes or risk factors, it is all but impossible to assess relative risk in women of different ages or lifestyles. A regular breast self exam, in conjunction with regular mammogram tests for older women, is the best way to ensure that a papilloma or another type of benign breast lump can be diagnosed and treated quickly.