Breast cancer is most often detected through screening mammography. However, being aware of breast cancer symptoms can also help detect the disease early. Here are the most common breast cancer symptoms and what you should look out for.
Identifiable Breast Cancer Symptoms
- Breast Lumps. While breasts naturally have a lumpy and uneven texture, any lumps that feel different from the rest of your breasts or develop suddenly can be a cause for concern. Breast lumps may be hard and painless or soft and tender, and can be large or small. They can develop in your breast or underneath your arm. If you find a lump, you should have it checked by your doctor.
- Change in Consistency. The consistency of a woman’s breast changes naturally over her lifetime, most often during pregnancy and menopause. However, if your breast tissue thickens very suddenly, it may be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer, a rare but aggressive form of cancer, or lobular breast cancer, which develops in the breast’s milk-producing lobules.
- Change in Skin Color or Texture. Red, scaly, or dimpled skin is also a symptom of inflammatory breast cancer. The symptoms may look like an ordinary rash. In serious cases, the breast will appear bruised and develop a rough texture, like an orange peel.
- Breast Swelling. Inflammatory breast cancer can cause your breasts to swell, often in only one breast, making it larger than the other. This may be accompanied by changes in skin color or texture. If the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes, swelling may also occur around your armpit or collarbone.
- Breast Shrinkage. Breasts can shrink for many reasons, including hormonal changes during menopause or simple weight loss. But if one breast begins to shrink while the other remains the same size, it may be caused by a tumor developing around your chest wall. This pulls in the breast tissue, making the breast appear smaller.
- Nipple Retraction. Breast tumors can sometimes cause the milk ducts in your breast to retract, pulling your nipple inward. In some cases, it will look as if the nipple has been inverted.
- Nipple Discharge While breasts are always producing fluid, if it begins leaking out on its own, without the breast being squeezed, it may be a sign of something wrong, especially if the discharge only occurs in one breast or if the fluid is bloody.
- Breast Pain. Most breast pain is due to hormonal fluctuations, stress, or can be caused by an injury to the ribs or muscles underneath. However, if the pain is persistent, confined to a single area, and has no obvious explanation, it may be a symptom of breast cancer. Seeking a doctor’s opinion is the best course of action, especially if it coincides with any of the other symptoms on this list.
Additional Breast Cancer Symptoms Information
Breast cancer is a widespread and severe health concern that impacts millions of women worldwide. However, it is crucial to note that not all breast abnormalities or symptoms are cancerous. Indeed, most breast health issues reported to medical providers turn out to be non-cancerous or benign.
Women who perform breast self-exams (BSE) should complete the exam at the same point in their menstrual cycle. This is because normal hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle cause variations in the breast that will impact how it feels. Women should also take note of any breast changes and report them to their healthcare provider.
Mammography is an essential tool for detecting breast cancer early. Current mammography guidelines from the American Cancer Society (ACS) and others recommend women start getting an annual screening mammogram at age 40. If you have a family history of breast cancer, consult with your doctor to see if you should start screening before the age of 40. Women at higher risk of developing breast cancer may be recommended to undergo MRI and ultrasound screening.
If you or a loved one has concerns about a breast abnormality, it is crucial to contact a medical provider. This is especially true if new breast abnormalities progress rapidly or last for more than two months. At Breastlink, we provide comprehensive breast health services, including screening, diagnosis, and treatment. You can schedule an appointment with one of our breast health medical providers by filling out our online form.
In general, being aware of your breast health and adhering to the recommended screening guidelines can aid in the early detection of breast cancer and increase the chances of successful treatment.