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What If It's Not a Breast Lump?: Illustrated Symptom FAQs

Symptom: Scaly Nipple Rash, Itchy Breast

By PJ Hamel

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Reviewed Wednesday, May 2. 2007

Breast Cancer Symptoms_Nipple Rash

Q. I have this scaly rash right around my nipple. That couldn’t be a sign of cancer, could it?

A. Yes, it could. Or it could be a plain old rash. But any time your nipple changes, it’s worth a call to the doctor. Changes might include the following;

• A nipple that’s suddenly inverted (pulled in, rather than sticking out);

• A change in the shape of your nipple;

• A spontaneous discharge (i.e., you don’t have to squeeze your breast for it to appear), other than milk. Special signs to watch for include the discharge coming from only one breast; if it’s tinged with blood; or if it’s clear and sticky. 

In addition, a rare form of breast cancer, Paget’s disease, starts with a red, scaly, itchy rash, over and around the nipple and areola. It may scab over; it looks a lot like eczema, and is often misdiagnosed. Have it checked; your doctor may decide it’s eczema, and treat it with a rub-on cream. If that works, fine. If it doesn’t, suggest to the doctor that you’d like the rash tested.

Finally, persistent nipple tenderness, itchiness, or pain that’s NOT related to your menstrual cycle, and that’s a new occurrence (e.g., you haven’t had itchy breasts off and on for years) should warrant a call to the doctor.

Next Breast Cancer Symptom: Dimpled Breast Skin

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