Paget’s disease of the breast or nipple is a rare type of breast cancer. The problem causes changes to the nipple skin and the surrounding dark skin area i.e. areola. This indicates the symptom of breast cancer in various tissues present behind one’s nipple.(1)
Paget’s disease of the breast mainly affects the nipple and the surrounding areola. One can easily mistake the mentioned signs and symptoms with other common breast problems, like dermatitis i.e. skin irritation and noncancerous type of skin problem.(2)
Paget’s disease type of breast cancer hurts the nipple ducts at the initial stage, where ducts refer to small tubes carrying milk. After this, the disease spreads to the surface of the nipple and the areola referred to as the skin’s dark circle across the nipple. Both the areola and nipple become red, scaly, irritated, and itchy.(3)
How Do I Know If I Have Paget’s Disease Of The Breast?
You will know that you are suffering from Paget’s disease of the breast based on certain symptoms. The disease affects the nipple and areola i.e. the surrounding skin. Many women mistake the symptoms of Paget’s disease of the breast with dermatitis i.e. skin irritation or any other noncancerous type of skin condition. Major signs and symptoms of the disease are-
- Scaly or flaky skin on the nipple
- Oozing, crusty or hard skin that resembles eczema on the areola and/or nipple
- Redness and itching problems
- Burning or tingling sensation
- Bloody or straw-colored nipple discharge
- Inverted or flattened nipple
- Presence of lumps or thickening of the breast skin
Signs and symptoms mainly take place in only one breast. The disease starts typically in nipples and spread towards areola and other breast areas. The changes in the skin go and come early and respond to topical treatment. Approximately, women have symptoms for many months before they undergo a diagnosis.(4)
Will A Mammogram Detect Paget’s Disease Of The Breast?
In most of the cases, doctors refer their patients for imaging post-biopsy from the formed lesion. This confirms the presence of Paget’s disease. Mammography is the basic radiological investigation and it detects the underlying yet invasive type of carcinoma/cancer cells. However, in most cases, mammography shows normal results and if the result is negative, patients have to undergo ultrasound procedures.(5)
Mammogram used in mammography refers to an X-ray examination of the breast tissue. It indicates a link between changes in the skin and the nipple towards underlying breast cancer. This is common if a patient has Paget’s disease in the breast. When mammography results do not highlight any sign or symptom of nipple/breast cancer in both of the breasts, the doctor recommends for MRI i.e. Magnetic Resonance Imaging. MRI detects the presence of cancer, which one cannot see with the help of a mammogram.(6)
During the diagnosing procedure of mammogram, your radiographer and other experts will place one of the breasts over a flat X-ray plate. Later, on, they press down the second X-ray plate on the breast to flatten and compress it temporarily between the two different plates. X-ray gives a clear image of the inner part of the breast. After this, the doctor performs the same procedure to the other breast as well.
Young women have dense breasts than old women have, which makes the mammogram diagnose a challenging task. Because of this, mammograms are relatively less effective in women less than 35 years age.(7)
You can easily know whether you have Paget’s disease based on its symptoms, which continue for a long time. Moreover, a mammogram is useful to identify the presence of cancer cells associated with Paget’s disease, but it is relatively less effective as compared to MRI, ultrasound, and other diagnostic procedures.