• A woman visited hospital due to severe pain and foul-smelling discharge coming from her breast. 
  • She was diagnosed with cancer and a rare "flesh-eating" infection, and had her right breast removed.
  • The woman had noticed a breast lump 6 months before and treated herself with homeopathic tablets. 

A woman who went to hospital with severe pain and foul-smelling discharge coming out of her right breast was diagnosed with a rare "flesh-eating" infection as well as breast cancer.

The woman had noticed a breast lump six months before visiting the hospital, and followed her family's advice to treat it with a homeopathic tablet, according to a case study by health professionals working in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia published on April 26 in the Cureus Journal of Medical Science. The name of the treatment she used wasn't documented, they said.

The health professionals diagnosed the woman with invasive breast cancer and a potentially deadly, flesh-eating infection called necrotizing fasciitis.

They said that the patient's choice to opt for homeopathy as a sole treatment may have led to a delay in the cancer diagnosis. There is no scientific evidence that homeopathy can prevent or treat cancer.

Jayant Vaidya, a professor of surgery and oncology at University College London, told Insider that, while there is no evidence of homeopathy causing harm by itself, it "can prevent people from taking proper treatment."

Flesh-eating infections are rare. They can occur after trauma, such as surgery.

Necrotizing fasciitis is rare, especially in the breast, but it can progress quickly and kills 20% of people that get it, according to research. The treatment is a cocktail of strong antibiotics and emergency surgery to cut away the dead tissue. It's not clear how she got the infection. 

The condition tends to affect the limbs and the area between the genitals and anus. There have only been a handful of reports of this flesh-eating infection in the breast — usually after trauma, such as surgery, that allows bacteria to enter the breast tissue. Patients that get necrotizing fasciitis usually have diabetes or are immunocompromized, though it has been reported in healthy people too.

The woman, who had diabetes and high blood pressure, was given antibiotics and had her right breast removed, according to the report.

Her cancer was treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the health professionals said in the report.

Breast cancer symptoms

Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Symptoms to look out for include: a new lump in the breast or armpit; breast pain; any change in size, shape or colour of the breast; nipple changes including discharge or discolouration; and skin changes.

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