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Paget's disease of the breast affects your nipple and usually the skin (areola) surrounding it. It's easy to mistake the signs and symptoms of Paget's disease of the breast for skin irritation (dermatitis) or another noncancerous (benign) skin condition.

Possible signs and symptoms of Paget's disease of the breast include:

  • Flaky or scaly skin on your nipple
  • Crusty, oozing or hardened skin resembling eczema on the nipple, areola or both
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • A tingling or burning sensation
  • Straw-colored or bloody nipple discharge
  • A flattened or turned-in (inverted) nipple
  • A lump in the breast
  • Thickening skin on the breast

Signs and symptoms usually occur in one breast only. The disease typically starts in the nipple and may spread to the areola and other areas of the breast.

The skin changes may come and go early on, or respond to topical treatment, making it appear as if your skin is healing. On average, women experience signs and symptoms for several months before getting a diagnosis.

When to see a doctor

Check your nipple and areola on both breasts on a regular basis, such as during breast self-exams. If you feel a lump, or if you experience itching or skin irritation that persists for more than a month, see your doctor.

If you're being treated for a skin injury on your breast, and the condition doesn't go away with treatment, make a follow-up appointment with your doctor. You may need a biopsy — a procedure that collects a small tissue sample for microscopic analysis — to evaluate the affected area.

Mar. 27, 2013