Nipple discharge is not usually a sign of anything serious, but sometimes it's a good idea to get it checked just in case.
Nipple discharge is often normal
Lots of women have nipple discharge from time to time. It may just be normal for you.
It's also not unusual for babies (boys and girls) to have milky nipple discharge soon after they're born. This should stop in a few weeks.
Nipple discharge in men is not normal.
The colour of your discharge is not a good way of telling if it's anything serious. Normal discharge can be lots of colours.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
you have nipple discharge and any of these:
- it happens regularly and is not just a one-off
- it only comes from 1 breast
- it's bloodstained or smelly
- you're not breastfeeding and it leaks out without any pressure on your breast
- you're over 50
- you have other symptoms – such as a lump, pain, redness or swelling in your breast
- you're a man
It's probably nothing serious. But there's a small chance it could be cancer, so it's best to get checked.
What happens at your GP appointment
The GP will look at and examine your breasts.
They may refer you to a hospital or breast clinic for further tests. These will usually show that you do not have cancer.
What happens at the breast clinic
At the hospital or breast clinic, you may have a:
- breast examination
- scan – usually a breast X-ray (mammogram) or ultrasound
- biopsy – where a needle is inserted into your breast to remove some cells for testing
The tests are often done during the same visit.
You'll usually be told the results on the same day, although biopsy results can take longer – you should get them in a week or two.
Causes of nipple discharge
Nipple discharge has many possible causes.
Common causes include:
- breastfeeding or pregnancy – see leaking from your nipples
- a blocked or enlarged milk duct
- a small, non-cancerous lump in the breast
- a breast infection (mastitis)
- a side effect of a medicine – including the contraceptive pill
Nipple discharge by itself is not usually a sign of breast cancer.
Page last reviewed: 26 April 2021
Next review due: 26 April 2024