What are the Warning Signs of Breast Cancer?
October 19 2021
Signs and Symptoms Of Different Types of Breast Cancers in Women and Men
Breast cancer isn’t always associated with having a lump in your breast. This is why it is so important to know what the early signs and symptoms are, as well as to get your annual mammogram. Catching cancer early can mean better or more treatment options. So whether you have a family history or not, here are the warning signs and symptoms you should be paying attention to.
Early Warning Signs of Breast Cancer
The most common sign or symptom of breast cancer is a painless lump in your breast or armpit that may indicate a tumor. However, when early breast cancer is discovered in many patients, a lump or tumor is rarely noticeable to the touch or naked eye. Instead, the early signs are often discovered on an imaging test. This makes getting a regular mammogram very important. However, mammograms on their own won’t catch 100% of cases, meaning you need to pay attention to your body. Because everyone’s breasts are different, it is important that you pay attention to any changes that are not normal for your breasts, though there are some general warning signs.
Here are some warning signs you should be looking for:
- Breast swelling or any change in size of the breast
- Discharge from the nipple other than milk
- A nipple that appears to turn inward (cave in)
- Swelling or a lump under the arm or on the collarbone
- Skin changes on the breast or nipple, such as redness
- Pain in any area of the breast
Early Warning Signs of Invasive Breast Cancer
There are a few symptoms that are more specific to invasive breast cancer, including:
- Irritated or itchy breasts
- Change in breast color
- Increase in breast size or shape over a short period of time
- Peeling or flaking of the nipple skin
- A breast lump or thickening
- Redness or pitting of the breast skin (like that of an orange peel)
Symptoms of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Unlike other breast cancers, inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) rarely causes lumps and may not appear on a mammogram. Symptoms of this type of breast cancer develop rapidly and the disease can progress quickly. Any sudden changes in texture or appearance should be reported to your doctor immediately.
Here are the symptoms you should be watching for:
- Breasts that are red, swollen, itchy and tender to the touch
- The surface of the breast may take on a ridged or pitted appearance (like an orange peel)
- A feeling of heaviness, burning or aching in one breast
- One breast that is visibly larger than the other
- Inverted nipple
- No mass is felt during a breast self-exam
- Swollen lymph nodes under the arm and/or above the collarbone
- Symptoms are unresolved after a course of antibiotics
It is important to note that pregnant or breastfeeding women may experience redness, swelling, itchiness and soreness. These are often signs of a breast infection such as mastitis, which is treatable with antibiotics. If you are not pregnant or nursing and you develop these symptoms, your doctor should test for IBC, as this is a very aggressive form of cancer.
Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms
Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. These symptoms will vary depending on the part of the body in which the cancer has spread to.
Here are some of the symptoms you might experience if you have metastatic breast cancer by affected area of the body:
- Breast or Chest Wall: pain, nipple discharge or a lump or thickening of the breast or underarm
- Bones: pain, fractures, constipation or decreased alertness due to high calcium levels
- Lungs: shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, coughing, chest wall pain or extreme fatigue
- Liver: nausea, extreme fatigue, increased abdominal girth, swelling of the feet and hands due to fluid collection and yellowing or itchy skin
- Brain or Spinal Cord: pain, confusion, memory loss, headache, blurred or double vision, difficulty with speech, difficulty with movement, or seizures
Breast Cancer Symptoms in Men
Women are not the only ones who may develop breast cancer. For men, symptoms can be similar to those experienced by women and may include:
- Lumps in the breast, usually painless
- Thickening of the breast
- Changes to the nipple or breast skin (dimpling, puckering or redness)
- Discharge of fluid from the nipples
If you are experiencing any changes to your breasts, it is important to notify your doctor. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the better your treatment options and the less likely that it will develop into late stage cancer.
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