Categorized | Skin Care

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What Is Paget’s Disease of the Nipple?

Most women when they talk about breast cancer are usually referring to the breast as a whole; however, breast cancer can be more specific, not just in its type, but also in the area where cancer can develop. Usually when breast cancer is diagnosed, it is in the main formation of the breast – that is to say; “the bubby itself.” However, breast cancer also involves the less common “cancer of the nipple,” sometimes referred to as “Paget’s disease,” or “Mammary Paget’s disease.”

Paget’s disease is actually quite a rare type of cancer found mainly in women (in even rarer cases it can be found in men). The disease only affects the skin of the nipple and the areola (the circle of darker skin around the nipple) with malignant cells which can be found in the epidermis (the surface layer of the skin) of the areola, and the nipple itself. These malignant cells can be found either on their own, or formed in small groups within the epidermis.

About 50% of women who suffer from Paget’s disease are also diagnosed with having a breast tumor (sometimes more than one) in the main formation of the same breast that holds the affected nipple (ductal carcinoma in-situ, or invasive breast cancer [stages I – III]). Typical symptoms may include: a red scaly rash on the nipple that may extend to the areola that either itches or burns, an inverted nipple (pulled inwards), and a nipple discharge.

Rashes may resemble both eczema (a chronic inflammatory skin condition [dry skin, red patches, with an itchy sensation]), or psoriasis (patches of raised skin [usually red in color] with thick silvery scales); however, eczema rarely affects the nipple, and other skin conditions usually affect both breasts. Paget’s disease, for this reason may often get misdiagnosed at first, as it is put down to a less serious and more common benign (non-cancerous) skin condition.

The name “Paget” comes from the 19th century British doctor, Sir James Paget, who in 1874 noticed a relationship between changes in both the nipple and breast cancer. His name also can be found relationship-ed to other cancers too (nothing to do with breast cancer), such as: Paget’s disease of the bone, and extra-mammary Paget’s disease (of the vulva, and penis).

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