Paget’s disease refers more commonly to a chronic bone disorder. However Paget’s disease of the Breast (also known as Paget’s disease of the Nipple) is a rare and very malignant condition where large and irregular malignant cancerous cells form on the breast and which is also indicative of an underlying breast cancer.
The reason that Paget’s disease can be particularly dangerous is the fact that its symptoms can mimic conditions such as eczema and dermatitis which are skin conditions that require very different treatment from a cancer.
So often being mistaken for such skin conditions, Paget’s disease may remain unidentified and consequently untreated for a time.
It is important to note a significant difference in both, that with dermatitis and/or eczema, the aureole of the breast is affected first and then the nipple; unlike Paget’s disease.
Paget’s disease is not common in that it affects only about 1 to 2 percent of women who have breast cancer, and is very rare among men. The common symptoms of Paget’s disease of the breast are:
- Symptoms can be noted about 6 to 8 months before a diagnosis is made on an average and the symptoms usually correspond to the stage to which the disease has progressed.
- Flaky, scaly skin may be noted in the nipple area. Some women report an itchy, scaly rash in the area of the aureole.
- A straw colored discharge from the nipples is observed. Sometimes a bloody discharge may also be seen
- Crusty or hardened skin and oozing may also be noted and there may be inflammation which are symptoms similar to eczema and may therefore be mistaken for an infection rather than a malignancy.
- Often the nipple may become inverted or it may flatten.
- Sometimes the fluctuations and changes that take place in the skin may cause it to appear as though the symptoms are lessening and the skin is healing on its own.
- There may be a burning sensation in the nipple and surrounding area. In the more advanced stages of the disease, there could be tingling, increased sensitivity and pain.
- In about half the cases, an underlying tumor or lump may also be felt. Even without the lump, redness, discharge and crusting and sore skin that do not heal are commonly experienced symptoms.
- In general if it is found that sores in this area do not heal even after a month a specialist must be consulted to make a proper diagnosis.