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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Could a rash be breast cancer?

    I am 37 and have a red raised rash on my left breast that has persisted for several weeks. Could this be breast cancer. My doc says I don't need a mammogram.
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    Dr Karen Osborne

    GP (General Practitioner)

    Sydney GP specialising in Reproductive & Sexual Health for both women and men. At Clinic 66, we deal with a wide range of reproductive and … View Profile

    This is a difficult question to answer without actually seeing the rash. My inclination would be to be reassuring as rashes are very rarely a presenting sign of breast cancer. Your rash is much more likely to have an infective (?shingles) or inflammatory cause. Is it painful or itchy?

    Mammography can be a difficult test to interpret in younger women who have not gone through menopause and who may have dense breast tissue, it also exposes the breasts to radiation so should not be done unless the benefits outweigh the risks. Sometimes an ultrasound is done instead if imaging is needed.

    Breast cancer typically presents as a lump although other symptoms such as nipple discharge or skin changes may be present. The type of skin changes associated with breast cancer are a tethering effect on the skin (where the skin is pulled from underneath by the cancer) called peau d'orange, nipple inversion, ulceration of the skin caused by tumour breaking through, or a dry flaky rash around the nipple like eczema can be a sign of Paget's disease.

    There is however a rarer form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer the symptoms of which can just be skin changes and no lump. If you have persisting symptoms that are not resolving I would advise getting it checked again. 

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