Nipple discharge in a screening programme: Imaging findings with pathological correlation

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BreastScreen Australia provides free mammographic screening for asymptomatic women over the age of 40, targeting women aged 50–69. Occasionally women will present to screening programmes with a history of nipple discharge, which is uncommonly associated with significant underlying breast disease. Seventy-six women with a history of nipple discharge were recalled to BreastScreen Western Australia assessment centres from 2004 to 2008, of whom 72 were recalled primarily for their symptoms. Thirty-six of these patients had pathology investigations, including 18 nipple discharge smears, 17 fine needle aspirations, 11 core biopsies and eight surgical biopsies or therapeutic resections. The biopsies found 11 intraduct papillomas and one invasive ductal carcinoma with ductal carcinoma in situ. Fourteen patients had imaging findings consistent with benign mammary duct ectasia. Our findings confirm that the presentation of nipple discharge in a screening programme is uncommonly associated with significant breast disease, and present representative cases of the radiological findings with pathological correlation of benign and malignant causes including mammary duct ectasia, intraduct papillomas, multiple papillomas, invasive ductal carcinoma and ductal carcinoma in situ.

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