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This 45-year-old woman presents with milky discharge from both breasts and ‘bumping into things.’ Why?

NursingSKL clinical tip

By NursingSKL
February 13, 2023
iStock/ajr_images; NursingSKL

There are two critical things that a nurse should consider when assessing a patient who presents with breast discharge.

  1. What is the quality of the discharge? The discharge may represent milk or something else. For instance, if the discharge is bloody, this can be very concerning and may be suggestive of breast cancer.
  2. Is the discharge coming from one or both breasts? If coming from both, galactorrhea should be suspected. This may be related to pregnancy or breastfeeding, a primary pituitary tumor that is secreting prolactin (the hormone that is secreted from the pituitary gland that acts on the breast glands to stimulate milk production), or certain medications such as antipsychotic agents.

Clinical tip: In a patient with bloody breast discharge, rule out breast cancer; if bilateral and the patient is not pregnant/breastfeeding, rule out a pituitary lesion.


In this video, you will learn which three conditions every nurse needs to think about when assessing a patient with breast discharge.

This clinical tip was provided by NursingSKL, a collaborative initiative between leading doctors and nurses to improve nurses’ clinical skills. Go to to find out more, meet the faculty, and try our free Practicum on Diabetes Care.
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