NORD gratefully acknowledges V. K. Gadi, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Washington Medical Center; Associate Member, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, for assistance in the preparation of this report.
Paget's disease of the breast is a rare form of breast cancer that almost exclusively occurs in women. However, rare cases have been reported in men. Paget's disease of the breast is characterized by inflammatory, "eczema-like" changes of the nipple that may extend to involve the areola, which is the circular, darkened (pigmented) region of skin surrounding the nipple. Initial findings often include itching (pruritus), scaling, and crusting of and/or discharge from the nipple. In individuals with Paget's disease of the breast, distinctive tumor cells (known as Paget cells) are present within the outermost layer of skin (epidermis) of the nipple, when viewed under a microscope. Most women with this disorder have an underlying cancer (malignancy) affecting the milk ducts (ductal carcinoma). The milk ducts are the channels that carry milk secreted by lobes of the breast to the nipple. The exact cause of Paget's disease of the breast is not fully understood.
Paget's disease of the breast was originally reported in 1874 by Sir James Paget, an English surgeon, who also described an unrelated skeletal condition known as Paget's disease of the bone. It is essential to note that these disorders are distinct entities that are medically unrelated.
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