Rare Form of Breast Cancer

Paget's disease of the breast is a very rare form of breast cancer, accounting for only about 5 percent of all breast cancer cases. It generally occurs in women over the age of 50 and affects the ducts of the breast, then extends to the skin of the nipple and areola. Because of its location and generally benign symptoms, many women mistake the cancer for a skin irritation.

Symptoms can include flaking and scaling of the skin, redness, irritation, oozing on the nipple resembling eczema, and itching, among other symptoms. As a result, most women live with these symptoms and don't see a doctor until months later.

It is unknown what causes Paget's. Some doctors surmise it is the result of an underlying cancer in the ducts of the breast, which then travels to the nipple. Others think it could be mutated cells on the nipple itself.

The risk factors for Paget's disease of the breast are the same for any breast cancer. Routine self-examination and visits to a doctor if symptoms are present can catch the disease early on.

Breast Cancer Awareness Online Special Section