A rash describes discoloration, irritation and changes to the texture of your skin. In most cases, a rash on your breast is related to an allergic reaction, infection or common skin condition like eczema. However, certain breast cancers produce a breast rash. Contact a healthcare provider if you’re unsure what type of breast rash you have.
Irritation, inflammation and changes in the usual texture, appearance and color of your skin are all signs of a skin rash. A rash on your breast can appear similar to other rashes that develop on other parts of your body. They can be itchy, scaly, blistered or painful. Sometimes a breast rash doesn’t cause any pain or itchiness but causes small spots to appear on your skin. Breast rashes can affect the area under your breasts, between your breasts or on the skin around your nipple.
There can be many potential causes of breast rash. While most rashes on your breast happen due to bug bites, allergic reactions, irritants or infection, some breast rashes are a sign of breast cancer.
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The skin on your breast isn’t any different than skin on other parts of your body. Most breast rashes happen from the same type of conditions that affect your arms, legs, chest, back and other parts of your body. However, there are some rashes that can only happen on your breasts.
Common skin rashes can include:
The rashes above aren’t associated specifically with your breasts — they can appear anywhere on your body, including your breasts. These are mostly harmless but can cause discomfort. See a dermatologist or your primary care physician for treatment.
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare, aggressive breast cancer that develops when cancer cells get into the lymph vessels in the skin of your breast. When the vessels become blocked by cancer cells, symptoms begin to appear. These include:
Mastitis is a painful swelling of your breast that occurs most often in people who are breastfeeding (chestfeeding). But it can also occur in any woman or person assigned female at birth (AFAB), particularly if you smoke or have diabetes. Symptoms develop quickly and include:
A breast abscess is a buildup of pus underneath the skin of your breast caused by bacterial infection. A breast abscess can be due to untreated mastitis, and often affects people who are breastfeeding. The most common cause of breast abscess in people who aren’t breastfeeding is mammary duct ectasia.
Mammary duct ectasia is a condition that occurs when your milk ducts widen. These milk ducts contain debris which can sometimes become infected. Symptoms can include:
Paget disease of the breast is a rare form of breast cancer (1% to 4% of all cases of breast cancer) that first involves the skin of your nipple and can then extend onto the areola (the dark-colored skin around your nipple). Most people with this disease also have an underlying mass containing cancer in their breast.
In Paget disease of the breast, cancerous cells are found in the top layer of the skin of your nipple and areola. It’s not yet certain whether cancer cells from tumors inside your breast travel through your milk duct and deposit on your nipple, or whether cancer can develop separately in just your nipple.
Diagnosis is often made with a biopsy of your nipple or of any underlying mass.
Symptoms of the disease include:
Treatment for a rash on your breast depends on the cause. You should contact a healthcare provider for an evaluation.
Treatment for dermatitis (skin irritation) includes topical steroids and avoiding the substance causing the irritation. This can include soaps or cosmetics that produce an allergic reaction, particular types of clothing material or friction from a bra or clothing.
If you’re breastfeeding, your pregnancy care provider or a lactation consultant may help with nipple dermatitis or fungal infection. Treatment for people who are breastfeeding may be different than for people who aren’t breastfeeding. This is because certain medications pass into breastmilk and may affect your baby.
Providers treat rashes that occur due to a viral infection such as chickenpox, shingles or measles with antiviral medications, rest and pain relievers.
Healthcare providers diagnose inflammatory breast cancer after a thorough examination of the breast and often a tissue biopsy of your nipple or an underlying mass. This requires prompt treatment.
Treatment for mastitis usually consists of antibiotics to fight the infection. Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer and mastitis may be similar, so it’s necessary to make sure that the rash completely resolves.
Treatment of a breast abscess consists of draining pus from the infected area. If the infection is small, your provider may use a syringe and needle, often under ultrasound guidance by a radiologist. If it’s a large infection, a small incision may be required to drain the pus. In either case, your provider uses a local anesthetic to numb the area first.
The symptoms of mammary duct ectasia may improve without any specific treatments. Warm compresses and antibiotics can help. If necessary, a surgeon can remove the abnormal duct.
Treatment of Paget disease of the breast is the same as any other breast cancer. A person may choose lumpectomy which includes removing your nipple and areola and radiation, or mastectomy.
Most of the time a breast rash isn’t an emergency.
Consult with a healthcare provider if you’re unsure what kind of rash you’re dealing with. They can help you be sure that it’s not something serious.
Yes, your breast is like other areas of skin on your body. It’s common to get rashes on your breast, especially rashes caused by medication, infection, food, insects, allergic reactions and other irritants.
Because some breast rashes can be signs of cancer, it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider about your symptoms. They can examine and diagnose skin conditions that affect your breast.
Contact a healthcare provider if other symptoms accompany a breast rash such as:
It can be difficult to self-diagnose the cause of a breast rash, and in some cases a delay in medical treatment can be the difference between a successful outcome and a more serious health condition.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A rash on your breast is usually not a cause for concern. However, some breast cancers cause symptoms that cause your skin to swell, change texture or change color. Common causes of breast rash could be bug bites, hives, allergic reactions or skin conditions like eczema or dermatitis. Contact a healthcare provider if you suspect the rash on your breast is serious or it doesn’t go away in a reasonable amount of time. A provider can perform a mammogram or a biopsy to determine a cause and recommend treatment.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/30/2022.
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