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Paget Disease of the Nipple

(Paget's Disease of the Nipple; Paget Disease of the Breast)


Gregory L. Wells

, MD, Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine

Last full review/revision Jan 2021| Content last modified Jan 2021
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Paget disease of the nipple is a type of breast cancer that originates in milk ducts under the nipple but first appears on the skin.

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.

Paget disease of the nipple 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 of the nipple appears red, oozing, and crusting, similar to dermatitis but with a sharp border. Itching and pain are common.


  • Biopsy

Because Paget disease looks very much like common dermatitis, a biopsy is necessary to make the diagnosis. During this procedure, a small piece of skin is removed and examined under a microscope.

As with other cancers, once the diagnosis of Paget disease of the nipple is confirmed, doctors do an examination and tests to see whether the cancer has spread.


  • Treatment of the underlying breast cancer, including removal of the nipple and areola

  • For extramammary Paget disease, surgery or laser therapy

Paget disease of the nipple is usually treated like other types of breast cancer, and the nipple and areola are surgically removed.

Paget disease outside the breast area is treated by removing the entire growth with surgery, drugs applied to the skin, radiation therapy, or laser therapy.

More Information

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