Papillomas are benign abnormal growths within the milk ducts of the breast, the tubes that connect the glandular breast lobules to the nipple. Women with intraductal papillomas typically experience abnormal nipple discharge, along with pain in the affected breast and the development of a breast lump. Although papillomas are typically not cancerous, they may require treatment to reduce a future risk of developing breast cancer.
Most cases of papilloma within the breast are effectively treated with a breast-conserving surgery, reports MedlinePlus. Since these papillomas are usually benign, the tumor has no invasive properties and responds to surgical excision. During the surgery, the doctor creates a small incision in the breast and cuts away any tumor tissue, leaving behind healthy breast tissue. To confirm that the papilloma is benign, the surgeon will often also remove small samples of tissue from around the tumor to test for the presence of tumor cells, which would indicate a more serious and invasive tumor. Women with intraductal papillomas may require surgery in one or both breasts, depending on the characteristics of the papilloma.
In some cases, a papilloma of the breast can involve the nipple, since each nipple contains a small amount of ductal tissue. When papilloma occurs in the nipple, it creates a condition called papillomatosis, which requires nipple removal to treat the tumor. The severity of the surgery depends on the characteristics of the tumor and may require partial or complete nipple removal in one or both breasts, reports the UCLA Health System. Excision of the nipple can disrupt or abolish the ability to breastfeed after treatment, so patients should discuss the effects of nipple excision with a physician before treatment.
Patients who have developed papillomas of the breast must also undergo regular monitoring to assess the health of their breasts. Since papillomas stem from abnormal growth of duct cells similar to what occurs in ductal breast cancer, patients with papillomas may have a predisposition to some forms of breast cancer. MedlinePlus indicates that this risk is particularly apparent in patients with a family history of breast cancer or in patients whose papillomas contained abnormal cells. Regular clinical examinations and mammograms can help detect potentially cancerous growths in the breast ducts and allow for early treatment of breast cancer.