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Paget's Disease of the Nipple

What is Paget's disease of the nipple?

Paget's disease is a slowly growing cancer of the milk ducts that has spread to the skin of the nipple. It is a rare form of breast cancer.

How does it occur?

When abnormal cells grow uncontrollably, they are called tumors. It is not known why this happens. In Paget's disease, the tumor starts in the milk ducts of the nipple.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms are:

  • A redness, oozing, and crusting of your nipple and the circular, dark area around the nipple (areola). This causes itching and burning.
  • A sore on the nipple that does not heal.

Usually only 1 nipple is affected. Sometimes no changes in the skin can be seen. You may also have a lump in your breast, which you may or may not be able to feel.

One of the biggest problems with Paget's disease of the nipple is that its symptoms seem harmless. It is often thought to be a skin inflammation or infection, which can delay its diagnosis and treatment.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. Also:

  • A sample of discharge from the nipple may be examined under a microscope.
  • You will have a biopsy. A biopsy is the removal of a sample of breast tissue to test for cancer.
  • You will have a mammogram (X-ray) of both breasts to look for cancer in other parts of the breasts.
  • You may have an ultrasound scan or MRI. Both of these tests create pictures of the breasts.

How is it treated?

If the cancer is only in the nipple and not in any other part of the breast, your healthcare provider may recommend:

  • radiation treatments
  • surgery to remove just the nipple and surrounding tissue.

If a mass is found deep in your breast, your provider will discuss other treatment choices, including:

  • surgery to remove all or part of the breast
  • chemotherapy (anticancer drugs)

How long will the effects last?

Without treatment, the cancerous sore will remain on your nipple and may spread deeper into your breast. Your healthcare provider will advise you about the best treatment for your disease.

How can I help take care of myself?

  • Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.
  • Have regular physical exams.
  • Regularly check your breasts for lumps, sores, or fluid discharge from the nipples.

What can be done to help prevent this from happening again?

Check monthly for any lumps, sores, or oozing from your breasts and report any breast changes to your healthcare provider right away.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-07-08
Last reviewed: 2011-05-01
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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