Paget disease of the nipple is a rare type of skin cancer that originates in glands in or under the skin around a nipple.
The term Paget disease also refers to an unrelated metabolic bone disease (see Paget Disease of Bone). These distinct diseases should not be confused with each other.
This Paget disease occurs mainly on the nipple and results from a cancer of the breast milk ducts that has spread to the skin of the nipple. Both men and women are affected. The underlying cancer may or may not be felt by the person or the doctor. Sometimes Paget disease of the nipple develops in areas other than the breast (called extramammary Paget disease). It can develop in the groin or genital area or around the anus as the result of a cancer originating in underlying sweat glands or even in nearby structures such as the bladder, anus, and rectum.
The skin in Paget disease appears red, oozing, and crusting. It looks like an inflamed reddened patch of skin (dermatitis) as may result from many other possible causes. Itching and pain are common. Because Paget disease looks very much like common dermatitis, a biopsy is necessary to make the diagnosis.
Paget disease of the nipple is usually managed like other types of breast cancer (see Treatment of Specific Types of Breast Cancer). Paget disease outside the breast area is treated by removing the entire growth with surgery or laser therapy.
Last full review/revision July 2013 by Gregory L. Wells, MD