I received an email from Grannymar yesterday asking me to forward a message which she had received, to as many people as possible.
“Women, PLEASE be alert to anything that is not normal and be persistent in getting help as soon as possible. Paget’s Disease: This is a rare form of breast cancer and is on the outside of the breast on the nipple and areola. It appeared as a rash which later became a lesion with a crusty outer edge. I would never have suspected it to be breast cancer but it was. If this had been diagnosed as breast cancer in the beginning, perhaps it would not have spread… “
The person who left this message wanted it to be delivered to women everywhere. This lady developed a rash on her breast similar to that of young mothers who are nursing. Because her mammogram had been clear, the doctor treated her with antibiotics for infections. She subsequently died from this rare form of breast cancer.
Paget’s Disease of the breast is an uncommon form of breast cancer which first shows as nipple changes. This type of breast cancer starts in the breast ducts and spreads to the skin of the nipple and the areola (the dark circle around the nipple). It occurs in around 1% of all women with breast cancer. Men can also get Paget’s disease but this is very rare.
The symptoms of Paget’s disease look like other skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. However, there are differences. For example, Paget’s disease affects the nipple from the start while eczema affects the areola region first and only rarely affects the nipple. Paget’s disease usually occurs in one breast, while other skin conditions usually affect both breasts. Approximately half of patients with Paget’s disease will also have an underlying lump. Because Paget’s disease can look like other skin conditions, it can be difficult to make a diagnosis.
One of the biggest problems with Paget’s disease of the nipple is that the symptoms appear to be harmless. It is frequently thought to be a skin inflammation or infection, leading to unfortunate delays in detection and care.
“What are the symptoms?
1. A persistent redness, oozing and crusting of the nipple causing it to itch and burn.
2. A sore on the nipple that will not heal.
3. Usually only one nipple is affected.
Many women are not aware of Paget’s disease. If by passing this message around, we can make others aware of it and it’s potential danger, we are helping women everywhere. This message should be taken seriously and passed on to as many of your relatives and friends as possible; it could save someone’s life.”
Information Source: Action Breast Cancer, a programme of the Irish Cancer Society.