What is Paget’s Disease?

Guest Blogger, Sarah Mendoza

My thanks to Sarah Mendoza for today’s guest post. In September 2009 Sarah was diagnosed with Paget’s and wide spread high grade ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Her blog, The Breast Cancer Lottery, is a journal style account of her journey with breast cancer, reconstruction and life. In today’s post, Sarah explains what Paget’s is and what signs to look out for, particularly important as it is a less common type of breast cancer and therefore often misdiagnosed.

Hi my name is Sarah and I have been asked to talk about my Paget’s and what Paget’s is. Paget’s is a type of breast cancer or a warning sign that something more sinister is growing within the ducts to the nipple. A lot of the time when a woman complains of nipple irritation it turns out to be nothing. Even with my own visit to my general practitioner lead to me to swallowing antibiotics for mastitis first. It is a rare cancer, but treatable if caught in time.

What were my symptoms?

Itching, Soreness, Lesions and Weeping of the nipple.

When I first visited my GP January 2009 I was told nothing was wrong. It was eight months later when I was finally diagnosed with two conditions of the breast. These were Paget’s and wide spread high grade DCIS. Both conditions had been caught at a pre-cancerous stage. My first symptom I would say was down to instinct. I knew something was not right even though my nipple looked perfectly fine at that time. My nipple had an itchy tingly sensation and I would rub it constantly. I’d be stood in a queue with people all around me and I would be gritting my teeth to have a good rub. Believe it or not you can clear a queue of people when you start to itch your nipple.

Then in February 2009 I went on holiday and I developed a sore spot on the tip of my nipple. It was raw and weeping so my instinct said try antiseptic cream. I applied the cream on a piece of cotton wool and place it on the tip of my nipple, but when I took my bra off it would wrench the cotton wool off and the scab that had formed. So my next trial was to use a cream for cracked nipple and I tried this for a few months alternating between the two creams. I went back to my GP July 2009 and he started me on a course of antibiotics. It was already common practice for me to have regular bloods taken because I am a type two diabetic. So I had the full set of bloods taken and told to return in two weeks time.

What are you looking for?

Most doctors misdiagnose Paget’s because it has similarities to cracked nipple or eczema. Even I thought I had a reaction maybe to detergent or the water whilst away. It is a common mistake made and that is why it is a rare cancer. On my diagnosis I was used for an example so students could see what Paget’s looked like.

I was lucky that my cancer had remained in situ and was caught at a pre-cancerous stage. A tumour 6cm was growing laterally down my duct which was HER+++. If I had left it more than six months my story could have been different. If it wasn’t for the Paget’s I would of been sent away and told there was nothing wrong with my breast. On October 16th 2009 I lost my entire breast and had a LD reconstruction done the same day, but I am here to tell my tale and you are able read it.

My advice for any breast complaint would be; if in doubt go to your doctors and if you are not happy seek a second opinion. It is only your vigilance that can lead to your diagnosis.