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Other Indications That It Might Be Cancer
You know that a lump may be a sign of breast cancer. But some types, like inflammatory breast cancer, dont usually cause a lump. So, its worth knowing other signs and symptoms of breast cancer, such as:
- swelling around your breast, armpit, or collarbone
- dimpling of your skin, which can resemble an orange peel
- red or discolored, dry, flaky, or thickening skin on your breast or nipple
- unusual nipple discharge, especially blood
- the nipple is turning inward
- any change in size or shape of a breast
If cancer has advanced beyond your breast, symptoms may include:
- unexplained weight loss
- shortness of breath
Symptoms in men are very much the same. Of course, having one or more symptoms doesnt mean you have breast cancer, but the only way to know for certain is to call a doctor as quickly as possible.
Breast cancer is most common in people who:
- with age, especially after 50
- have a personal or family history of breast cancer
- have their first period before 12 years old or menopause after 55 years old
- experience physical inactivity
- take hormonal contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy
- consume alcohol
Its important to note that the stress of enduring racism, discrimination, and other racist systems may play a part in developing the disease beyond genetic factors.
When To Worry About Breast Lumps
So, you feel a lump in your breast. Or, is it a lump? You’re unsure.
The one thing you are sure about is that you’re worried and that you’ve got a lot of questions.
If you’re concerned about something that feels like a lump in your breast, Dr. Jitesh Joshi, medical oncologist at Houston Methodist Cancer Center, has answers to your questions about breast lumps, as well as some advice.
Read Also: What Does Stage 1 Breast Cancer Mean
What Is A Fibroadenoma
Fibroadenomas are solid, smooth, firm, noncancerous lumps that are most commonly found in women in their 20s and 30s. They are the most common benign lumps in women and can occur at any age. They are increasingly being seen in postmenopausal women who are taking hormone therapy.
The painless lump feels rubbery and moves around freely. You may find one yourself. Fibroadenomas vary in size and can grow anywhere in the breast tissue.
Other Breast Cancer Symptoms
Many other symptoms are associated with breast cancer, some of which are common and others are rare. Symptoms can also develop that do not appear to be related to breast health. Other signs associated with breast cancer are:
- Nipple changes: Retracted nipples, changes in how the nipples look, and nipple discharge are all signs of breast cancer.
- Changes in breast appearance: Dimpling, changes to the contour of the breast, and swelling or a rash can indicate breast cancer. Also, look for signs of infection, inflammation, or breaks in the skin of the breast.
- Signs of distant disease: If cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, you may feel lumps or pain in the armpit and neck.
Other nonspecific symptoms of breast cancer may include muscle, joint, or bone aches that can occur alongside fatigue, weakness, and unintentional weight loss. Chest pain and back pain can also be present in breast cancer.
Read Also: Is There Pain With Breast Cancer Symptoms
When To Get A Lump Checked Out
Dr Cooke outlines the things that might be abnormal and you should get checked out by a professional, just to be on the safe side. It might be nothing, but it’s always better to get it looked at to save yourself the worry. Plus, early intervention and treatment can be key to cancer survival. Seek a review by a doctor if you have:
- A new breast lump.
- A new armpit lump.
- Nipple changes .
- Skin changes on the breasts .
- Change in colour of the skin.
- Skin puckering or dimpling .
“When you see a doctor regarding a breast lump or changes of concern, they will ask about your medical history and whether there is a family history of breast cancer. They will look at your medications and whether you smoke or drink alcohol . They will ask questions about how you noticed the lump and will likely offer an examination and a referral if there is anything of concern,” says Cooke.
How Are Cysts Diagnosed And Treated
Your healthcare provider may find a cyst during a physical exam. He or she may confirm the diagnosis with a mammogram or ultrasound. You may also have a fine-needle aspiration. This involves guiding a very fine needle into the cyst and drawing fluid from it . This also serves as the treatment for this condition. Once the fluid is aspirated, the cyst collapses and disappears. But, cysts can reappear later, in which case they are simply drained again. Cysts are seldom cancerous .
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What Do Lumps In My Breast Mean
Many conditions can cause lumps in the breast, including cancer. But most breast lumps are caused by other medical conditions. The two most common causes of breast lumps are fibrocystic breast condition and cysts. Fibrocystic condition causes noncancerous changes in the breast that can make them lumpy, tender, and sore. Cysts are small fluid-filled sacs that can develop in the breast.
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Breast Lumps: Why Size Movability And Pain Matter
Your breasts are made up of fat, nerves, blood vessels, fibrous connective tissue, and glandular tissue, as well as an intricate system of milk-producing lobules , and ducts . This anatomy in and of itself creates a lumpy, uneven terrain.
A lump in the breast distinguishes itself from this background of normal irregularities. Harmless breast lumps can be solid and unmovable, like a dried bean or movable, soft, and fluid-filled you can roll it between your fingers like a grape. A lump may be pea-size, smaller than a pea, or even several inches across, although this larger size is rare.
What typically differentiates a benign breast lump from a cancerous breast lump is movement. That is, a fluid-filled lump that rolls between the fingers is less likely to be cancerous than a hard lump in your breast that feels rooted in place.
Another rule of thumb has to do with pain. Breast cancer does not usually cause pain. Benign conditions sometimes do, although there are exceptions to this rule as well. For instance, a rare form of breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer, may cause symptoms such as aching, tenderness, pain, or burning in the breast.
The only way to know the status of a lump for sure is through medical tests, such as an ultrasound, a mammogram, or a fine needle aspiration , in which your doctor uses a tiny needle to extract a bit of the lump for laboratory examination.
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Is A Breast Lump Urgent
See a GP as soon as possible if you notice any symptoms of breast cancer, such as an unusual lump in your breast or any change in the appearance, feel or shape of your breasts. The GP will examine you. If they think your symptoms need further assessment, theyll refer you to a specialist breast cancer clinic.
Finding A Health Care Provider
If you dont have a health care provider, one of the best ways to find a good one is to get a referral from a trusted family member or friend.
You can also call your local health department or a nearby hospital or clinic. If you have insurance, your insurance company may also have a list of health care providers in your area.
Ductal Or Lobular Hyperplasia
Atypical lobular hyperplasia and atypical ductal hyperplasia are considered precancerous conditions. Atypical describes cells that look abnormal under a microscope, while hyperplasia describes an overgrowth of cells.
Breast tumors that have these characteristics are more likely to turn into cancer therefore, close monitoring or surgical excision is required to treat these conditions.
The Basics Of Breast Cancer
may be Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but breast cancer is something we should be aware of all year round. Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer among women in the United States, affecting around 2.3 million women across the globe every year. As is the case with many cancers, prevention is everything. When it comes to breast cancer, prevention means getting regular physical checkups and keeping up with all the recommended screenings, such as mammograms, but it also means regular breast self-exams.
Interestingly, in recent years, some medical organizations have expressed doubt about whether doing your own exams is as important as weve been led to believeciting research that shows they may cause unnecessary worry and anxiety and unnecessary medical visits and procedures. As Horwitz explains it: The guidelines about breast self-exams are changing all the time. So should we be doing these exams, or not? According to Horwitz, its less about a formal exam and more about knowing your own breasts and what they typically feel like. The only way youll know if something is new and different is if youre touching them, she adds.
Ideally, she recommends doing this once a month, ideally at the same time in your cycle. I recommend a couple of weeks after your period ends, she explains, reiterating that your breasts can change texture right before, during, and after your period and that can lead to unnecessary panic if you feel something different.
Read Also: How I Found Out I Had Breast Cancer
Possible Cause: Benign Breast Lumps
There can be several reasons for breast lumps that arent related to cancer.
A cyst is a pocket of fluid that can develop in the breasts. While these are usually too small to feel, sometimes they grow large enough to feel like a lump. Cysts dont put a patient at an increased risk for cancer and dont typically require any treatment.
The most common benign tumor that feels hard but is mobile when you press on it is a fibroadenoma. In this case, your doctor may want to remove it, but having these don’t lead to cancer for most patients .
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Do Mammograms Help With Breast Cancer
Annual mammograms, clinical breast exams and most importantly, regular self-exams, all help patients. Self-exams let women know their breasts usual look and feel. Some women have lumpier breast tissue, Merrigan said. Women who get screening mammograms often have their cancers found before they can be felt.
What Does A Breast Lump Feel Like
In general, cancerous breast lumps tend to be more irregular in shape. They may also feel firm or solid, and might be fixed to the tissue in the breast. They are also often painless. However, in a small percentage of women, a painful breast lump turns out to be cancer.
Breast cancer lumps can vary in size. Typically, a lump has to be about one centimeter before a person can feel it however, it depends on where the lump arises in the breast, how big the breast is, and how deep the lesion is.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer found in women, but most breast lumps are not cancer.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
If you have any symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.
Different people have different symptoms of breast cancer. Some people do not have any signs or symptoms at all.
Some warning signs of breast cancer are
- New lump in the breast or underarm .
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
- Pain in any area of the breast.
Keep in mind that these symptoms can happen with other conditions that are not cancer.
If you have any signs or symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.
Can I Learn To Feel The Difference
Yes, fingers are exquisitely well designed to detect the difference between normal breast tissue because suspicious lumps are tactually different. There have been many attempts to describe in words or on videos what our fingers feel during a breast exam. Words like hard, soft, irregular shape, defined borders, fixed, or movable can be useful, but to get it right we must teach our fingers, not just hear about it with our ears or viewing videos or by reading instructions. As one woman reported after practicing the correct technique, you cant palpate a pamphlet.
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What Causes A Lump In The Breast
A collection of infected fluid in breast tissue also can cause a breast lump, one thats often associated with localized breast pain and inflammation of the skin. Breast cancer. A breast lump thats painless, hard, irregularly shaped and different from surrounding breast tissue might be breast cancer.
The Importance Of Screening
Regularly checking for a breast cancer lump or other change is easy and can potentially alert you to a problem. But most tumors cannot be felt, especially in early stages. Thats why sticking to a regular breast cancer screening schedule is so important.
Ask your doctor when you should begin screening and how often. Continue to watch for changes between appointments.
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What Is A Normal Breast
No breast is typical. What is normal for you may not be normal for another woman. Most women say their breasts feel lumpy or uneven. The way your breasts look and feel can be affected by getting your period, having children, losing or gaining weight, and taking certain medications. Breasts also tend to change as you age. For more information, see the National Cancer Institutes Breast Changes and Conditions.external icon
What To Know About Breast Cancer Lumps
- Cancer Treatment Expert
reast cancer lumps are often the first warning sign patients see in breast cancer. However, the symptoms and signs of breast cancer can be different in each patient. For a lump to develop in breast cancer, the disease spreads to the lymph nodes beneath the collar bone and causes swelling or a lump.
Early detection of breast cancer is crucial because it improves the survival rate of patients and there are more treatment options available to patients for breast cancer in early stages. Studies show that self-exams do not increase the changes of detecting cancer, but doctors recommend that everyone is familiar with their breasts so they can report any changes in appearance or how they feel. To perform a self-exam, you want to look for changes in the overall symmetry, shape, or size of the breasts. You should inspect them while you are shirtless in front of a mirror and:
- Have your arms down by your side
- Put your hands pressed on the hips
- Raise your arms overhead with your hands together
- Lift the breasts to see if the ridges on the bottom are still symmetrical