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Thursday, February 11, 2010 Jane, Community Member, asks

Q: Both of my breasts itch, mostly just the areola and nipple. Do you know why this could be?

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Answers (2)
Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
2/12/10 5:51am

Jane, the most likely cause would be some type of dry skin or dermatitis related to irritation from a skin product or laundry product.  The first steps in home care would be to use mild, unscented skin products designed for sensitive skin and to double rinse your bras to be sure that all detergent is gone.  Check your bras to be sure they fit properly and that the fabric isn't irritating.  If that doesn't help in a week or two, you might want to check with a doctor to see if an allergy or other problem is involved.  A prescription cream might help.  Do not use any of the anti-itch cortisone creams without talking to your doctor.  Paget's Disease of the Breast is one type of breast cancer that can involve itching in the nipple area, but it also has a scaly rash and would typically affect only one side.  Definitely call your doctor if you develop a rash, but if the problem is just the itching, home care would be safe to try first.

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RHONDA24LOVE, Community Member
10/ 3/10 5:38pm

IM A 26 YEAR OLD AND ABOUT LAST MONTH BOTH OF MY BREASTS AND NIPPLES STARTED TO ITCH. IM AFRAID AND HOPE I DONT HAVE BREAST CANCER. I READ THAT ITCHNESS IS RELATED TO CANCER AND ESPECIALLY TO IBC AND AMONG AFRICAN AMERICANS. IM AN AFRICAN AMERICAN. I DID STARTED TO USE SOME NEW PRODUCTS LAST MONTH BUT I CAN'T RECALL IF THE ITCH STARTED AROUND THAT TIME SO I DONT KNOW IF IT HAS ANY CORRELATION WITH THAT. I DON'T HAVE ANY RASH. LAST YEAR I DID HAVE HAVE PROBLEMS WITH THAT BOTH OF MY BREASTS WAS GIVEN ME PROBLEMS LIKE BREAST PAIN AND DID HAVE THAT CHECKED UP. I HAD SOME MASS ISSUES WHERE THE DOCTOR TOLD ME THAT MY GLANDS WERE SWOLLEN AND I NEED TO CUT BACK ON THE CAFFIENE. THE PAIN STILL COMES BACK BUT USUALLY AROUND MY CYLCE TIME. THE ITCH IS NOT AS BAD AS IT FIRST STARTED BUT THERE IS STILL AN ITCH. I DONT KNOW IF I HAVE ANY WARMTH TO IT BECAUSE IM A PERSON WHO WORRIES AND OVER EXAGGERATE THINGS. I THINK WILL CALL THE DOCTOR AND MAKE AN  APPOINTMENT TO HOPEFULLY RULE OUT CANCER. CAN THE DOCTOR BIOPSY ME IF THEY CANT FIND NOTHING WRONG WITH MY BREAST BY LOOK AT IT AND CAN'T FIND ANY LUMPS OR MASS. IM CONFUSED AND SCARED.

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Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
10/ 3/10 7:42pm

Rhonda, it's good that you know about inflammatory breast cancer being more common among African Americans.  Because the redness that is one symptom of IBC can be harder to notice on darker skin tones, it's even more important that African American women know to pay attention to pain, itching, swelling and skin dimpling.  

However, what you describe does not sound like IBC because it is in both breasts, it seems to change over the course of your cycle, and you have recently started using some new skin care products.  The first thing I'd suggest you do is switch to unscented skin care products for sensitive skin and see if that helps the itching.  Some people are more sensitive to caffeine, but for others cutting it out does nothing to reduce the lumpiness and swelling they have right before their periods.  You are young, so it is highly unlikely that you would have breast cancer; nevertheless, you need to notice breast changes and go to the doctor if you have a lump or swelling that doesn't go away after your period.  An ultrasound can detect whether the lump is a cyst or a solid lump that needs a biopsy.  Since it's been a year since you saw the doctor about the swelling, going back for another check-up is probably a good idea.  I think you'll get good news that everything is OK.

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By Jane, Community Member— Last Modified: 12/27/10, First Published: 02/11/10