Itching a Sign of Breast Cancer?

Last Modified: March 12, 2006

Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I have read that itching of the breast may be a symptom of breast

cancer. Is this a myth or is it true?

Answer

Angela DeMichele, M.D., MSCE, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania and Senior Scholar in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, responds:

Itching can be a symptom of breast cancer, but it is a very uncommon one. It can occur with a relatively uncommon type of breast cancer called "inflammatory breast cancer", in which the breast becomes significantly swollen, red, warm and  sometimes - itchy. These symptoms are often very rapid in onset. Much more commonly, though, breast itching is a symptom of a benign (non-cancerous) skin condition, such as eczema or contact dermatitis. Breast itching should be checked by a physician, to make sure that none of the other signs of inflammatory breast cancer are present, and may require consultation with a dermatologist to treat an underlying skin condition.

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