Mammary Paget's Disease: A Comprehensive Guide

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Mammary Paget’s Disease: A Comprehensive Guide to Diagnosis, Treatment, and Management


Mammary Paget’s disease (MPD) is a rare form of breast cancer that begins in the nipple. It is typically found in women over the age of 50, but can also occur in younger women and men. MPD is often misdiagnosed as a non-cancerous skin condition, such as eczema or psoriasis, due to its skin-like symptoms. Early detection and treatment are crucial for improving treatment outcomes and overall prognosis.


The exact cause of MPD is unknown, but it is believed to occur when cancer cells from the breast ducts spread to the nipple. The risk factors for developing MPD include:

  • Age: Women over 50 are at increased risk.
  • Breast cancer: Women with a history of breast cancer are at increased risk.
  • Family history: Women with a family history of MPD or breast cancer are at increased risk.


MPD typically presents with the following symptoms:

  • Crusty or scaly rash on the nipple
  • Redness and inflammation of the nipple
  • Itching or burning sensation
  • Nipple shrinkage or flattening
  • Discharge from the nipple (usually bloody or clear)
  • Thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • Pain or tenderness in the breast


Diagnosing MPD can be challenging, as it can mimic other skin conditions. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor may recommend:

  • Physical examination: Your doctor will examine your breasts and nipples, looking for any abnormalities.
  • Biopsy: A small sample of tissue from the nipple will be removed and examined under a microscope to check for cancer cells.
  • Mammogram: A special X-ray image of the breast can help identify any underlying breast cancer.
  • Ultrasound: This imaging test uses sound waves to create images of the breast, which can help differentiate MPD from other skin conditions.


Treatment for MPD depends on the stage of the cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the breast or body. Treatment options include:

  • Surgery: The most common treatment is a mastectomy, which involves removing the entire breast. In some cases, a lumpectomy (removal of the tumor and surrounding tissue) may be an option if the cancer is small and contained.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It is often used after surgery to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It is typically used for advanced MPD or if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
  • Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy drugs block specific molecules that are involved in cancer growth and spread. They may be an option for MPD that has certain genetic mutations.


The prognosis for MPD depends on the stage of the cancer at diagnosis and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. The overall 5-year survival rate for MPD is approximately 85%. However, the prognosis is poorer if the cancer has spread beyond the breast.

Management and Follow-Up

After treatment for MPD, regular follow-up appointments are essential to monitor for any recurrence or spread of cancer. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Physical examinations: Regular breast and nipple exams should be done by your doctor.
  • Mammograms: Annual mammograms are recommended to screen for any changes in the breast tissue.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests can be used to monitor for any signs of cancer recurrence.


Mammary Paget’s disease is a rare but important form of breast cancer to be aware of. It typically affects women over 50 and presents with skin-like symptoms on the nipple. Early detection and treatment are crucial for improving the chances of a successful outcome. If you notice any changes in the appearance or feel of your nipples, it is important to see your doctor right away for an evaluation.

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