This study investigated the significance of nipple discharge in 24 male patients who came to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for evaluation of breast symptoms during 1995 to 2005. Male breast cancer typically is associated with a palpable mass. However, among these patients, 14 had a chief complaint of nipple discharge. Clinical breast examination identified a breast mass and/or nipple changes in seven of the 14. Eight of the 14 men with nipple discharge were found to have an underlying malignancy; two of seven patients presenting with nipple discharge alone had ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
Six of seven men with nipple discharge plus a palpable mass had invasive disease. Of the remaining 10 men (who presented with a painless palpable mass without nipple discharge), eight were found to have underlying invasive breast cancer. The overall incidence of cancer among males presenting with nipple discharge was 57%. Therefore, nipple discharge without a mass may indicate early, non-invasive disease, and may represent a window of opportunity for early diagnosis and improved survival for men.