By Laura Lehne
I’m writing this as a PSA for all women. We’re always told to check for lumps and to get mammograms. However, Paget’s disease of the breast is a breast cancer that until October, I had never heard about.
In October, after visiting the breast assessment centre at my local hospital, I was told that I had eczema. While I was thrilled that was all that was wrong, I was a bit skeptical. I showed my best friend the area I just had examined at the health centre and she gasped; she suggested it may be Paget’s disease of the breast. I went back to my doctor and shared my concerns with her. She did not agree or disagree with the possibility of it being Paget’s disease but expressed her concern for my “eczema” diagnosis. After pushing for further testing, an MRI and a biopsy, it was confirmed that it was in fact Paget’s disease. The nurses, doctors, and a surgeon that I dealt with all stated how often Paget’s disease is misdiagnosed. Most women develop a second more invasive breast cancer before Paget’s disease is discovered and properly diagnosed.
Paget’s disease of the breast does not need to be a life-threatening condition; if found early enough, a mastectomy can be performed. If you have eczema-like symptoms on your breast, please get it checked to make sure that it isn’t Paget’s disease of the breast. A mammogram alone may not pick up this type of cancer so an ultrasound or MRI may also need to be performed along with a biopsy. Paget’s disease is often misdiagnosed as eczema and given that it is so rare there is less awareness that these symptoms may actually be a sign of breast cancer. As someone whose been diagnosed with Paget’s disease, I am encouraging you to be aware that eczema on the breast may not be what it seems, and to speak to your doctor if you notice these symptoms. It might just save your life.