Can itching be a sign of breast cancer?

Itchiness of the breast is not usually due to cancer. It is more often caused by other conditions that can affect the breast such as eczema or mastitis (inflammation of the breast).

Paget’s disease of the breast

Paget's disease is a rare skin condition that can cause itching.

This condition develops in the nipple or the darker area of skin around it (the areola). It usually first appears as a red, scaly rash of the skin that may look like eczema. There might also be some discharge or bleeding from the nipple. 

With Paget’s disease, there might be breast cancer in the tissues behind the nipple. Or there might be carcinoma in situ. This means that there are cancer cells but they are completely contained within the lining of the breast ducts. It is possible for someone to have Paget’s disease of the breast without having cancer but this is less common.

Inflammatory breast cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare type of breast cancer that can cause skin changes in your breast. With this type of cancer, the breast or part of the breast can become red, inflamed, painful and swollen. It can also cause itching of the breast. 

When to see your doctor

If you have a patch of itching skin, it is more likely to be eczema or some other type of skin condition. But it is important to get anything that is not normal for you checked out by your GP as soon as possible.
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  • Clinical aspects of inflammatory breast cancer
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    Breast disease, 2005. Vol 22. Pages 35-44

  • British Association of Dermatologists guidelines for the investigation and management of generalized pruritus in adults without an underlying dermatosis, 2028
    G Millington and others 
    British Journal of Dermatology, 2018. Vol 178, Issue 1. Pages 34-60

  • Assessment of pruritis
    BMJ Best Practice, Last reviewed 2023

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. Please contact with details of the particular issue you are interested in if you need additional references for this information.

Last reviewed: 
19 Apr 2023
Next review due: 
19 Apr 2026

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