Paget’s disease of the breast or nipple is a rash that usually indicates a rare type of breast cancer that occurs in women and men.
The presence of this rash usually indicates breast cancer beneath the skin, either ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), or invasive breast cancer.
Most diagnoses occur in women during menopause, but, rarely, it can also appear in women as young as 20 years. The average age at diagnosis is 62 for women and 69 for men
The symptoms can resemble those of a skin condition, and this sometimes delays diagnosis, increasing the risk of a life-threatening condition.
Up to 90 percent of people with Paget’s disease also have underlying breast cancer. However, Paget’s disease accounts for less than 5 percent of all breast cancers.
Paget’s disease indicates a 90 percent chance of an underlying breast cancer.
Symptoms of Paget’s disease vary depending on the stage of development. They usually only occur in one breast.
The main symptoms include:
flaky or scaly skin on the nipple that does not heal over time
straw-colored or bloody nipple discharge
flattened or inverted nipples
The earliest symptom of Paget’s disease is often an eczema-like rash, usually affecting only one nipple. The skin of the nipple and the dark skin around it (areola) may become red, itchy, and inflamed. Some women have an itching or burning sensation.
Other symptoms may include:
fluid discharge from the abnormal area of cells
a lump in the breast
redness, oozing, and crusting
a sore that does not heal
The symptoms usually affect the nipple first, then spread to the areola, and finally the breast. Symptoms often disappear temporarily, which may falsely lead an individual to believe that the condition has resolved.
On average, a woman may experience signs and symptoms for 6 to 8 months before a diagnosis is made.
What’s to know about eczema?
Paget’s disease is sometimes confused with eczema
Paget’s disease or eczema?
Paget’s disease is difficult to diagnose due to its resemblance to dermatitis and eczema. The latter, unlike Paget’s disease, usually affects the areola first and then the nipple.