Breast Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you can avoid developing breast cancer. However, knowledge is power— and the more you know about what to look for, the better equipped you’ll be to recognize if it’s time to alert your doctor. When breast cancer is detected in the early stages, treatment is more likely to offer a better outcome. 

When breast cancer is at an early stage, there are typically no symptoms. 

As the tumor grows, a hard, irregularly shaped lump or mass can be felt by some women. Typically, these lumps are painless and don't move around. Finding a lump can be scary, but it’s important that you try not to panic, as not all lumps are cancerous. Still, it’s important to have it evaluated by your primary care physician (PCP) or gynecologist as soon as possible. Getting answers quickly can ease your mind. And if it is cancer, you’ll be able to treat it as early as possible.

Related Reading: 

Are There Early Signs of Breast Cancer?

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Other breast cancer symptoms that could indicate breast cancer

In addition to a lump, there are other warning signs and symptoms to be aware of since there are different types of breast cancer. If you notice one or more of the following signs or anything else out of the ordinary, you should schedule an appointment as soon as possible with your gynecologist or primary care physician.

  • Breast pain
  • Warm, red, irritated, or itchy breast 
  • Change in breast shape or size 
  • Swelling of all or part of the breast (even when there is no lump present)
  • A lump in the collarbone or armpit area
  • Nipple pain or a newly inverted nipple
  • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • Skin dimpling (may resemble an orange peel)
  • Discharge from nipple, other than breast milk

What’s Considered Normal? 

Understanding the red flags that could indicate breast cancer is just as important as understanding breast changes that are typically considered normal. Several factors, such as menstruation, pregnancy, weight change, medications, and aging, can contribute to regular breast changes. Stay mindful of your ongoing breast health and pay close attention to signs that indicate any abnormalities. 

When to Get Your Breasts Checked 

Early detection is vital. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above or having breast pain at times other than the start of your menstrual cycle, you should consider talking with your gynecologist about a mammogram screening. The good news is that mammograms are known to detect 87% of breast cancers effectively. If your mammogram does detect a suspicious mass, it’s likely you’ll need further evaluation so a diagnosis can be made— but the sooner you know, the closer you’ll be to breast cancer treatment if needed.  

Learn more about breast cancer screening.

Related Reading: 

Detecting Breast Cancer Early with 3-D Mammograms

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