Background: Paget's disease (PD) of the breast is an uncommon condition traditionally treated with mastectomy. To assess the natural history and treatment options in PD we have reviewed the experience at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI).
Study design: The medical records of patients treated for PD at RPCI between 1963 and 1996 were reviewed.
Results: Eighty patients were treated in the period reviewed. The median follow up was 61 months. Sixty-eight of 80 patients had nipple changes consistent with PD including 30 who had an associated breast mass (group 1), and 38 who had no associated mass (group 2). Of the 68 patients with clinical PD, 58 (85%) were treated with mastectomy while the remainder were treated with some form of breast conserving therapy. Breast cancer (BC) was found in 56 of 68 patients (82%) with clinical PD, including 28 of 30 patients (93%) in group 1 and 28 of 38 patients (74%) in group 2. Breast cancer was centrally located (within 2 cm of the areolar margin) in 61% of patients, including 71% in group 1 and 50% in group 2. Of the 28 patients with an associated BC in group 1, 21 (75%) had invasive cancer, 6 (21%) had ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), and 16 (57%) had pathologic axillary nodes. Of the 28 patients with an associated BC in group 2, 10 (36%) had invasive cancer, 18 (64%) had DCIS, and 6 (21%) had positive axillary nodes. The median survival was significantly shorter for group 1 (42 months) than for group 2 (126 months; p = 0.007).
Conclusion: Most patients with PD have an associated BC (82%) that was centrally located (61%). In those patients without an associated mass, a significant number (26% in this series) may not have an underlying BC and may be overtreated with mastectomy. On the other hand, a significant number of patients with PD and no associated breast mass will be found to have a peripherally located tumor (29% in this series). These non-central BC masses could potentially be missed by a wide local excision that includes the areolar complex.