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 in recognizing 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. 

The most common sign of breast cancer is the presence of a painless lump or mass. Typically, lumps are hard to the touch and uneven along the edges. Some lumps, however, can be soft and rounded. 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 wise to have it evaluated by your primary care physician (PCP) or gynecologist. Finding out as quickly as possible can ease your mind. And if it is cancer, you’ll be that much closer to recovery.

In addition to a lump, there are other warning signs and symptoms to be aware 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 PCP. 

Other common signs and symptoms that could indicate breast cancer include:

  • 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 treatment if needed.  

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