Bleeding from the breast is a symptom that should never be ignored. While it can have a number of causes, including breastfeeding and age-related changes, in some cases, it can be a sign of a serious medical condition. It’s important to understand the potential causes of bleeding from the breast to determine when to seek medical attention.
Roshni Rao, MD, chief of the Breast Surgery Program at Columbia University Medical Center, notes that bleeding from the nipple is less concerning than bleeding from the skin of the breast. Bleeding nipples may seem alarming, but the underlying cause is typically benign and easy to solve. In contrast, bleeding from a skin lesion or lump in the breast likely indicates a more serious issue.
Let’s take a closer look at the four possible causes of bleeding from the breast.
Sore Nipples Due To Breastfeeding
Tender nipples are common during the first few days of breastfeeding, according to HealthLink BC. However, if the baby isn’t positioned properly during nursing, or if the baby has trouble latching on, it can cause the mother’s nipples to become bruised and cracked, or even bleed.
Don’t ignore these symptoms if you experience them. Pain during breastfeeding can indicate issues with how the baby is positioned, but it can also be a sign of a breast infection. This can occur if bacteria enter the breast through chaffed or cracked skin. If you experience fever, flu-like symptoms and breast pain, see your doctor as soon as possible.
Benign Intraductal Papilloma
An intraductal papilloma is a benign (aka non-cancerous) type of tumor, according to Breast Cancer Now. This wart-like tumor can develop in one or more of the milk ducts in the breast, usually close to the nipple. This condition usually affects women over 40 due to age-related changes in the breast.
The most common symptoms are a small lump near the nipple and clear or bloody nipple discharge from the affected breast. Intraductal papillomas aren’t usually painful, but some women do experience breast tenderness and discomfort.
A single intraductal papilloma doesn’t typically increase the risk of breast cancer, but having multiple papillomas may increase the risk slightly, according to the American Cancer Society. In addition, approximately 16 percent of intraductal papilloma can be associated with breast cancer. Therefore, intraductal papillomas are usually removed through surgery.
Breast cancer is a potentially life-threatening medical condition. It’s the second most common form of cancer for American women (after skin cancer), affecting roughly one in eight women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
“Bleeding from a skin lesion or lump in the breast is much more concerning [than bleeding nipples]. It’s associated with a [cancerous] lump that grows through the skin and can cause bleeding,” Dr. Rao says.
You’re likely aware that breast lumps or lumps under the armpit are very common signs of breast cancer. However, breast cancer can also cause a number of other symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer symptoms include:
New lump in the breast or armpit
Pain in any area of the breast
Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
Inverted nipple (nipple that faces inwards)
Changes to the shape or size of the breast
Redness or flakiness of the nipple or skin of the breast
If you notice any of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately.