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Sunday, April 19, 2009 smokinbunny, Community Member, asks

Q: Can eczema be related to breast cancer or cancer that has spread throughout the body?

My sister(36) had metastatic carcinoma w/extra capsular extension. This isn't the first time she has had breast cancer. When she was 29 she had a lumpectomy in her left breast and removed 14 lymph nodes(stage 3 cancer refused treatment then). It was her right breast and spread to the lymph nodes under her right arm. She did a full body scan and it showed the cancer was only in her breast and lymph nodes. She had the breast removed and 12 lymph nodes. She refused the chemotherapy afterwards, just taking antibiotics until it healed. It got infected about a month after surgery, she was treated and it healed. About two weeks after the surgery she started presenting with rashes which eventualy worsened. She was diagnosed with a severe case of eczema and it seems no matter what the doctors give her, she gets no relief. She is wondering if the cancer had spread to the rest of her body, would it cause these symptoms?

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Answers (3)
Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
4/19/09 7:19pm

Breast cancer can come back in the skin, sometimes called skin mets (short for skin metastasis)  Usually skin mets appear near the incision and left untreated can spread.  Her doctors have probably taken a biopsy to check for skin mets if the rash looks like it might be that.  It's not unusual for an allergy to antibiotics or other medicines to cause a rash all over the body, but that usually wouldn't last very long.  Has your sister seen a dermatologist?  If I'm reading your question correctly, the eczema has now lasted for up to seven years, which makes me think that the rash itself isn't cancer.  However, she must be very uncomfortable.  If a local dermatologist can't help her, maybe she needs a referral to a skin specialist at a research hospital.

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smokinbunny, Community Member
4/19/09 9:28pm

I'm sorry, there was only so much space but the eczema didn't occur until the second surgery when she had her right breast removed-that added up to 26 lymph nodes removed between the two surgeries. It started 2 weeks after the surgery and before her breast got infected and has since gotten worse. It covers her whole body and she has plenty of oozing to go along with it. She has seen a dermatologist but between the two surgeries she is buried and cannot afford to keep going to different doctors to try and figure out why it won't go away and has asked me to help her. She is taking all of the antibiotics and skin creams that the dermatologist has suggested but nothing helps. Yes, they did take a skin graft and told her it was eczema. They said nothing about skin mets-maybe you could tell me more about that?

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Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
4/20/09 6:37am

Yes, I understand how difficult it is to get all the details in a small space.  I responded to your question about the skin mets a few minutes ago where you posted it, so see that response first.  I'm sorry that your sister is having this problem.  I know people who have had stubborn eczema for years, but usually just in a small area.  The best I can suggest is seeing another dermatologist who might have some other ideas about how to help her.

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Arleen, Community Member
5/21/09 5:04am

Hi Phylis - I've been reading your answers and wondered if you could help me too? My Mum has breast cancer on her skin around her masectomy wound. It was diagnosed in August after much difficulty as she was re-assured on several times that it was just eczema. She is having chemo and herceptin but she talks about needle like hot pains in the rash. Were you prescribed anything at all that helped with these pains?

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Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
5/21/09 5:55am

Arleen, I haven't had skin mets myself.  As I've read about other people's experiences with skin mets, it seems that your mother's experience is not unusual.  I don't know what would help the pain, but maybe some of our readers who have had skin mets can write in with what helped them.  Is your mother advocating for herself and letting the doctor know that she wants more stronger pain control?  If her oncologist isn't working to manage her pain, maybe she could ask for a referral to a pain clinic.

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By smokinbunny, Community Member— Last Modified: 12/26/10, First Published: 04/19/09