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How Does Paget’s Disease Of The Breast Affect The Body & What Triggers It?

Paget’s disease of the nipple affects the ducts of the nipple then spreads to the nipple surface and the areola.1

Paget’s can affect both men and women, although women are more likely to develop the disease.2

Although there are no known causes of the disease yet old age, pre-condition and hereditary increase the risk of developing the Paget’s Disease of The Breast.3,4

Paget’s disease of the breast is a condition that causes an eczema-like change that starts in the nipple and may extend to the areola. 90% of women who suffer from Paget’s disease eventually develop breast cancer.

Even though this is a disease of older adults, medical research reveals it can happen at a younger age. It is often mistaken for the disorder of the skin because it can look alike. It often diagnosed using a skin biopsy.

How Does Paget’s Disease Of The Breast Affect The Body?

Paget’s disease is a rare form of breast cancer wherein there is an accumulation of cells in or around the nipple region. The tumor typically affects the milk ducts of only one breast initially at the nipple, later progresses to the surface and areola (the dark circle of the skin around the nipple). When a person is diagnosed with this condition, they can often experience a scaly red itchy skin accompanied by irritation in the surrounding areas.1

Several medical studies were conducted by the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program that shows survival rates of women diagnosed with Paget’s disease between 1988 and 2001 were more than 82 % and the US recorded the highest incidence during the years 1973 and 1987.

A person may require surgery when a large area of the breast is affected by this condition. When the progression is severe and found to be invasive then your oncologist may suggest for a radical mastectomy and the entire breast will be removed.

On the contrary, when the disease affects the nipple and not spread to the surrounding area, the individuals may require breast-conserving surgery followed by radiotherapy to protect the breast. Chemotherapy is one of the most effective means to prevent cancer from recurring in cases

  • When cancer is large
  • The cells have progressed to the lymph nodes
  • The condition being aggressive.2,3

What Triggers Paget’s Disease Of The Breast?

Doctors don’t know what is causing the Paget’s disease of the Breast. Clinical studies show that most conditions of Paget’s disease are triggered by the underlying ductal breast cancer. However, some theories contradict this opinion and suggest that the disease can develop independently in the nipple.

There are a few conditions which increase the risk of developing the disorder

  • Age- The chances of developing the disorder is higher as you age.
  • History Of Breast Cancer- Individuals who had underlying ductal cancer have a greater incidence of developing breast cancer.
  • History Of Breast Anomalies – Certain benign breast abnormalities and lobular carcinoma in situ are some of the major contributors in developing this disease
  • Hereditary – Not only the inherited gene mutation increases the risk of breast cancer rather the defects in one of the several genes put you at a greater risk.
  • Radiation Exposure- Exposure to ultraviolet rays, certain chemicals, and ionizing radiation during childhood or in the work environment adds the risk.
  • Obesity – People suffering from excess weight without supporting exercise have an increased risk for cancers. Most women develop breast associated issues when they put on weight after menopause.4,5


  1. “Paget’s Disease of the Nipple: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and More.” Breastcancer.org, 22 June 2019, www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/types/pagets.
  2. “Paget’s Disease of the Breast.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 8 Mar. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pagets-disease-of-the-breast/symptoms-causes/syc-20351079.
  3. Pichardo, Gabriela. “Paget’s Disease of the Breast: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention.” WebMD, WebMD, 15 May 2020, www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/pagets-nipple-disease.
  4. “Extra-Mammary Paget’s Disease.” British Skin Foundation, www.britishskinfoundation.org.uk/extra-mammary-pagets-disease.
  5. “Pagets Disease of the Breast.” Macmillan Cancer Support, www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-information-and-support/breast-cancer/pagets-disease-of-the-breast.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 18, 2020

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