Paget's Disease of the Nipple
Netlore Archive: Forwarded email cites early warning signs of Paget's Disease of the Nipple, a real though very rare form of breast cancer.
Description: Forwarded email
Circulating since: July 1999
Status: Fairly accurate
Email example contributed by Beverly Spenst, Oct. 20, 2000:
Subject: Breast Cancer Warning
Following is a message I got from a friend to pass along:
In Nov. I lost my sister (Betty Botts of Troy, Al.) to a rare kind of breast cancer. She developed a rash on her breast similar to that of young mothers who are nursing. Because her mammogram had been clear, the Dr. treated her with antibiotics for infections. After 2 rounds and it continued to get worse her Dr. sent her for another mammogram and this time showed mass. A biopsy found a fast growing malignancy; chemo was started in order to shrink the growth; then mastectomy; then a full round of chemo; then radiation. After about 9 months of intense treatment she was given a clean bill of health.
One year of living each day to its fullest--then it returned to the liver area. She took 4 treatments and decided that she wanted quality of life, not the after effects of chemo. We had 5 great months and she planned each detail of the final days. After just a few days of needing morphine, she slipped away saying she had done what God had sent her into the world to do and now it was her time to go. I still have tears as I write, but our message would be like the one below-- to be alert to anything that is not normal--and be persistent in getting help as soon as possible.
Ladies, take note:
This is a rare form of breast cancer, and is on the outside of the breast, on the nipple and aureola. It appeared as a rash which later became a lesion with a crusty outer edge. I would not have ever suspected it to be breast cancer but it was. My nipple never seemed any different to me, but the rash bothered me so I went to my doctor for that. Sometimes it itched and was sore, but other than that it didn't really bother me. It was just ugly and a nuisance, and could not be cleared up with all the creams prescribed by my doctor and dermatologist for the dermatitis on my eyes just prior to this outbreak. They seemed a little concerned but did not warn me it could be cancerous. Now I suspect there are not many women out there who know a lesion or rash on the nipple or aureola can be breast cancer.
What are the symptoms? Mine started out as a single red pimple on the aureola. 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.
The symptoms include:
1. A persistent redness, oozing, and crusting of your nipple causing it to itch and burn. ( As I stated mine did not itch or burn much, and had no oozing I was aware of, but it did have a crust along the outer edge on one side).
2. A sore on your nipple that will not heal. (Mine was on the aureola area with a whitish thick looking area in center of nipple).
3. Usually only one nipple is affected.
How is it diagnosed? Your doctor will do a physical exam and should Suggest having a mammogram of both breasts done immediately. Even though the redness, oozing and crusting closely resemble dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), your doctor should suspect cancer if the sore is only on one breast. Your doctor should order a biopsy of your sore to confirm what is going on. They will take a sample of your breast tissue in that area to test for cancer. If the cancer is only in the nipple and not in the breast, your doctor may recommend just removing the nipple and surrounding tissue or suggest radiation treatments.
Had my doctor caught mine right away, instead of flaking it off as dermatitis, perhaps they could have saved my breast, and it wouldn't have gone to my lymph nodes. This message should be taken seriously and passed on to as many of your friends as possible; it could save someone's life.
My breast cancer has spread and metastasized to my bones after receiving mega doses of chemotherapy, 28 treatments of radiation and taking tamaxofin. If this had been diagnosed in the beginning as breast cancer and treated right away, perhaps it would not have spread. I did try to spread the word through Rosie O'Donnell show on breast cancer awareness, but it failed to trigger importance enough to announce on her show last year. This is sad as woman are not aware of Paget's disease. If by passing this around on the e-mail, we can make others aware of it, and it's potential danger we are helping women everywhere.
Please, if you can, take a moment to cut and paste this information into an e-mail and share it with a friend. It only takes a moment yet the results could save a life.
Please pass this on to as many people as you can.
Analysis by Peter Kohler: There are probably more instances just now of the above missive being forwarded - without any research having been done about it - to email inboxes, than there are present and actual cases of the condition itself in existence amongst the women in the world. Face it, folks: we scare easily.
This is not to diminish the seriousness of the illness, for those who have it or for those near to them. Paget's disease of the breast, or cancer of the nipple, is a real though quite rare form of cancer, accounting for less than 5 percent of all cases of breast cancer.
So how come when previous searches for "Paget's Disease" were conducted on the About network, all that was found were articles concerning a bone disease? Because this commentary had not yet been written! And by the way, the confusion over the names occurs because both conditions were first described by the same British surgeon, Sir James Paget, over one hundred years ago.
You can visit the following websites for more reliable information about this matter. If you wish to share this information with friends and relatives, please don't forward the email rumor. Direct them instead to these websites so they can feel confident about the information they're getting:
Paget's Disease of the Breast
Overview from The Mayo Clinic
Breast Cancer Information
From About's expert Guide to Breast Cancer
Peter Kohler is a writer and researcher based in Seattle, Washington
Last updated 10/26/04