Paget’s Disease of the Breast

What is Paget’s Disease of the Breast?

General description/overview

Paget’s disease of the breast is an uncommon type of breast cancer that appears on the nipple and the areola. Cancerous tumors are usually found within the milk ducts of the same breast. It is rare occurrence when it only affects the nipple.

When viewed under a microscope it is characterized by big circular malignant cells (Paget cells). They are found either individually or amassed in the uppermost layers of skin. It can occur in males as well as females, but it mainly strikes middle-aged women. The cause is unclear, but most doctors theorize that cancerous cells move via the milk ducts to outer areas of the breast, but not in every case. It may only appear on the nipple and areola.

What are the Symptoms of Paget’s Disease of the Breast?

Paget’s disease of the breast is often initially misdiagnosed. It can look like a simple case of dry skin, eczema, dermatitis or another harmless condition. A nipple biopsy is required for diagnosis. Signs and symptoms to be aware of include:

  • Scaling flaking skin on the nipple
  • Hardening of the nipple
  • Thickened skin on the nipple, areola or breast
  • Yellowish or bloody liquid oozing from the nipple and areola
  • Crusty buildup on or around the nipple
  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Burning or tingling skin
  • Inverted or flattened nipple
  • Breast lump(s)

How is Paget’s Disease of the Breast Treated?

The treatment of Paget’s disease of the breast depends on the stage of the cancer and the characteristics of the tumor(s). Treatment may include the removal of the cancerous portion of the breast (lumpectomy). If the breast cannot be saved but nearby lymph nodes are healthy, a simple mastectomy will be necessary.

Treatment may also include:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
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Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
August 23, 2017
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