Paget's disease of the nipple is usually associated with breast cancer.
It's treated by removing the cancerous part of the breast, or sometimes the entire breast using a procedure called a mastectomy (see below).
You can discuss any concerns you have with your oncologist (cancer specialist) who will be able to explain each phase of your treatment.
If you're diagnosed with Paget's disease of the nipple, surgery is often the first type of treatment you'll receive. The two main types of surgery are:
- mastectomy – surgery to remove the whole breast, which can be followed by reconstructive surgery to recreate the removed breast
- breast-conserving surgery – where only the cancerous lump (tumour) and a little surrounding breast tissue are removed
These types of surgery will also involve removing your nipple and the darker area of skin surrounding it (the areola).
The two different types of surgery are discussed in more detail below.
During a mastectomy, all of your breast tissue, including your nipple, will be removed. You may need to have a mastectomy if:
- the tumour is large or in the centre of your breast
- there's more than one area of breast cancer
- breast-conserving surgery won't provide acceptable results
If lymph nodes (small glands) are removed from your armpit during a mastectomy, the scarring may block the filtering action of the lymph nodes, resulting in a condition called lymphoedema. This is a long-term condition, but can be treated with:
- specialised massage techniques
- compression sleeves – tightly fitting bandages that push excess fluid out of your arm
- skin care
Lymphoedema can develop months or sometimes years after surgery. Contact your GP or breast care nurse if you notice any swelling in your arm or hand on the side of your operation.
Read more about mastectomy.
Breast-conserving surgery aims to save as much of your breast as possible while removing the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue.
If you have Paget's disease of the nipple, your nipple and areola will be removed. You should be offered reconstructive surgery to improve the appearance of your breast after surgery (see below).
If you have breast-conserving surgery, the amount of breast tissue removed will depend on:
- the size of the tumour in relation to the size of your breast
- whether the tumour is in one place or scattered throughout your breast
Your surgeon will remove some healthy breast tissue around the cancer so it can be tested for traces of cancer. If cancer cells are found in the surrounding tissue, more tissue may need to be removed from your breast.
After having breast-conserving surgery, it's likely you'll need to have radiotherapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
Read more about breast-conserving surgery.
If you have a mastectomy, you may be able to have reconstructive surgery to recreate your breast. This can be done by:
- inserting a breast implant
- using tissue from another part of your body to create a new breast
The reconstruction can be carried out at the same time as your mastectomy or at a later stage. You should fully discuss your options with your surgeon and breast nurse before making a decision.
For example, it may be possible to have reconstructive surgery after breast-conserving surgery to improve the appearance of your breast and create a nipple.
A nipple can be created by:
- having a nipple tattooed onto the skin
- using your own body tissue, such as tissue from your other nipple, although around half of these flatten out and shrink over time
- using a stick-on latex (rubber) nipple, which can be made from a mould of your other nipple so that they're identical; you stick it on every day with glue and it can be removed for washing
Read more about breast reconstruction.
If you decide not to have breast reconstruction, you can wear a false breast or breast prosthesis, which is available free on the NHS.
After having a mastectomy, you may have a temporary, fibre-filled prosthesis and a permanent prosthesis made from silicone, which can be replaced every two years.
After your surgery, you may need further treatment if you have invasive breast cancer (where the cancerous cells have spread into other tissue in your breast).
If you have non-invasive breast cancer (where the breast cancer cells are contained in one area of your breast), surgery may be the only treatment you need.
Other types of treatment for breast cancer include:
- chemotherapy – where powerful medication is used to destroy cancer cells and prevent them dividing and growing
- radiotherapy – where controlled doses of high-energy radiation, usually X-rays, are used to destroy cancer cells
- biological therapy – if your breast cancer is HER2 positive, biological therapy, usually a medication called trastuzumab, can be used to treat the cancer by stopping the effects of HER2 and helping your immune system fight off cancer cells
- hormone therapy – if your breast cancer is hormone-receptor positive, hormone therapy can be used to treat the cancer by lowering the levels of hormones in your body or stopping their effects
Read more about how breast cancer is treated.