Paget’s disease of the breast or nipple is one of the rare conditions related to breast cancer. The problem mainly causes changes similar to eczema of the nipple skin and the areola i.e. darker skin across the nipple. Paget’s disease is a symptom of breast cancer within the tissue present behind the nipple.(1)
A common theory behind the disease is that tumor cells migrate from milk ducts to approach to the areola and nipple. A few people develop Paget’s disease of the nipple or breast but they do not suffer from breast tumors.(2)
Malignant cells i.e. Paget cells are telltale signs related to the Paget’s disease of the breast. Such cells are present in the surface layer i.e. epidermis of the nipple skin and the breast’s areola.(3)
Individuals suffering from Paget’s disease of the breast, especially the women have Paget cells i.e. distinctive tumor cells in the nipple’s epidermis, which doctors can view under a microscopic device.(4)
Which Finding Is Most Characteristic Of Paget’s Disease?
Paget’s disease of the breast often affects the areola and nipple. Many people mistake the signs and symptoms of the disease with symptoms related to dermatitis i.e. irritation of the breast skin. A few of them also perceive the symptoms as any other type of benign i.e. noncancerous skin problem. Paget’s disease of the breast has the following major signs and symptoms-
- Scaly or flaky skin on the nipple
- Oozing, crusty and hard skin that resembles eczema on the areola and/or nipple
- Redness, itching, burning sensation or tingling of the affected breast skin
- Turned-in i.e. inverted or flattened nipple
- Bloody or straw-colored discharge from the breast/nipple
- Presence of a lump in the breast
- Thickening of the breast skin
In most of the cases, signs and symptoms take place in a single breast but the disease starts in the nipple and then, spreads to other areas.(5)
Inflammatory Skin Changes Similar To Eczema Is The Prime Characteristic Of The Disease
Paget’s disease of the breast primarily characterizes inflammatory changes similar to the eczema of nipples. The problem can extend to cause infection in the areola, which is circular and pigmented i.e. darkened skin region nearby the nipple. Initial findings of the problem mainly involve scaling, itching, and crusting or discharge from the areola/nipple. However, the overall course of the Paget’s disease varies greatly among individuals depending on the size and nature of underlying malignancy. Moreover, the characteristics depend on the presence of palpable breast tumors, metastatic disease, treatment procedures, and possible factors.(6)
What Does Paget’s Breast Cancer Look Like?
As mentioned before, Paget’s disease affects a particular nipple and the surrounding skin of the breast. The disease appears in the form of red rash and itchy skin on the breast or nipple, which extends to a darker area of the nearby skin i.e. areola. Paget’s disease of the breast also appears as a small ulcer or red, dry, and flaky skin patches, which are similar to the problem of psoriasis. Along with this, the disease comes with additional possible symptoms-
- Burning sensation or itchiness combined with visible changes to the areola and nipple
- Bleeding from the nipple skin
If you experience burning, itching, or bleeding but your nipple appears normal and is not scaly, red, or dry, you should still consult your doctor.(7)
To conclude, we should say that inflammatory changes similar to the eczema of nipples are major characteristics associated with Paget’s disease of the breast in individuals. However, cancer appears as a red rash and/or itchy skin on the breast or nipple area.