Breast rash: Could it be inflammatory breast cancer?

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Breast rash: Could it be inflammatory breast cancer?

Question

I have a red rash on a small area of one my breasts. My doctor gave me hydrocortisone cream to use on it, but the rash isn't going away. Should I be concerned it might be inflammatory breast cancer?

Nancy
Illinois

Answer

In most cases, a breast rash does not indicate a serious disorder, such as cancer. But a persistent breast rash also shouldn't be ignored.

A common cause of breast rash is mastitis, an infection of the breast tissue typically associated with breast-feeding. Treatment of mastitis is usually a 10- to 14-day course of antibiotics. However, if the rash doesn't start to clear up after a week on antibiotics, consult your doctor for further evaluation and possible a biopsy.

Another common cause of breast rash is dermatitis, an inflammation of the skin due to contact with an irritant or allergen. Treatment of dermatitis is usually with hydrocortisone cream. However, even if your doctor suspects breast dermatitis, it's probably a good idea to have the affected skin evaluated by a dermatologist.

Rarely, a breast rash can be a symptom of inflammatory breast cancer. However, skin changes typically associated with inflammatory breast cancer are redness and rapid swelling of a larger area of the breast. The affected skin may also have a dimpled texture, similar to an orange peel. These symptoms require prompt medical evaluation and possibly a biopsy to rule out cancer.

You don't indicate whether the rash involves the nipple. But a scaly, itchy rash that affects one nipple and persists despite treatment with skin creams or antibiotics may be a symptom of Paget's disease of the breast, another form of breast cancer. These symptoms require prompt medical evaluation and possibly a biopsy to rule out cancer.

Breast rashes

Images of breast rashes

A breast rash has many potential causes. Common causes include breast dermatitis and mastitis, an infection usually associated with breast-feeding. Rarely, a breast rash can be a symptom of breast cancer, such as inflammatory breast cancer or Paget's disease of the breast.

Last Updated: 07/05/2007
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