Signs Of Breast Cancer That Arent A Lump
For decades, the medical community and the media have waged an effective awareness campaign about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, educating the public about the importance of diligently monitoring their breasts for lumps. And the tactic has worked. Early detection has contributed to a 39 percent decline in breast cancer deaths in women from 1989 to 2015, according to the American Cancer Society. While thats an important step forward, many other abnormalities that may also indicate breast cancer are lesser known and discussed. Some, then, may be led to assume that no lump and no tumor mean no cancer, but that may be a dangerous conclusion to draw.
The majority of the publicity assigned to breast cancer is a lump, and the majority of patients might feel a mass in the breast, but there are definitely other symptoms besides a lump, says Ricardo H. Alvarez, MD, MSc, who leads the Breast Cancer Center Institute at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® . Visual changes may be especially key in helping detect breast cancer early.
You can see a lot of things just by looking at your breasts in the mirror. When your arms are by your side, you dont always see everything. Put your hands on your hips or raise them up. Having arms in two different positions while looking is also helpful. Cynthia Lynch, MD, Medical Oncologist at our hospital near Phoenix
Itchy Breast Redness And Pain
The American Cancer Society mentions that while the most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump, other possible symptoms include skin irritation and dimpling, as well as redness, scaliness or thickening of the breast skin.1
Its common for breasts to be sore and sensitive during menstruation, but this symptom could mean something more serious if you have sore breasts sensitivity that persists after that period. There may also be swelling involved with skin that is warm to the touch, indicating the less common forms of inflammatory breast cancer.
It is worth noting that it is rare that breast pain or sore breasts after period is a sign of cancer. Doctors from Harvard Medical School say that sore tender breasts are usually not connected with breast cancer.
Cancer Research UK says that itchy breasts can be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer, however this is very rare. With this type of cancer, the area of skin over the tumor can become red, inflamed, painful and itchy.2
Inflammatory cancer may also cause swelling and pain in the chest. The skin may look scaly or have small blue marks similar to hemorrhages, somewhat like cellulite holes on the breast.
Doctors on WebMD say that a reddish, pitted surface like the skin of an orange could be a sign of advanced breast cancer. They also mention a marble-like area under the skin or indentation on the breast, which may indicate a tumor that cannot be seen or felt.3
What Causes Breast Lumps And Pain
Many possible causes exist for pain or tenderness in one of your breasts or in both breasts. Most often the pain can be attributed to harmless causes such as puberty or pregnancy. It can also be a recurrent problem for women with cyclical pain associated with the menstrual cycle. Although cancer is a major concern for most women, it is rarely the cause of isolated breast pain.
Some causes of breast pain are:
- Fibrocystic breast disease
- Breast cancer
If you have a lump in your breast, your doctor will check for the following:
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Treatments To Reduce Your Risk
If you have a greatly increased risk of developing breast cancer, for example, a BRCA gene carrier, treatment might be available to reduce your risk. This applies to a very small minority of women.
Your level of risk is determined by factors such as your age, your familys medical history, and the results of genetic tests.
You will usually be referred to a specialist genetics service if its thought you have a significantly increased risk of breast cancer. Healthcare professionals working at these services might discuss treatment options with you.
The 2 main treatments are surgery to remove the breasts or medication. These are described in more detail below.
Myth : Women With Lumpy Breast Tissue Have Dense Breasts
False. Lumpy breast tissue has nothing to do with breast density, Dr. Pederson says. Your breasts can feel lumpy but not appear dense on a mammogram.
Nearly one in two women have dense breast tissue, indicated by the amount of milk glands and ducts and supportive tissue, which appear solid white on a mammogram. Because cancer can appear the same way, women with dense breasts may choose to have 3D mammography for better cancer detection and fewer false positives. Women at high risk may qualify for MRI screening.
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Most Breast Pain Is Benign
Breast pain, or mastalgia, is uncommon with breast cancer. Most of the time, breast pain happens along with your menstrual cycle, but it can also be linked to benign nonhormonal causes. Other benign conditions that can cause breast pain include breast cysts, fibroadenomas, or blocked milk ducts. And even though the pain with these conditions can be troubling, it is not usually dangerous.
When To Worry About A Breast Lump
The best way to truly solve any anxiety or worry you have about a breast lump is to have the lump examined by a medical professional. They will be able to determine the cause. Remember that the majority of breast lumps end up being benign, but it is still very important to have a professional give you a definitive answer.
For more information about breast cancer research and treatment, visit Dana-Farbers Susan F. Smith Center for Womens Cancers website.
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Yes Breast Cancer Can Hurt
by Patient Advocate
The myth that breast cancer doesn’t hurt causes way too much pain! Like many myths, this one has roots in a fact. Compared to a breast cyst, which is often very tender to the touch, a cancerous lump usually doesn’t hurt when a woman or doctor feels it.
We hear many reports from women that go something like this:
I found this lump in my breast, so I went to see the doctor. It really hurt when he did the exam. He told me not to worry because breast cancer doesn’t hurt, but I am worried. Shouldn’t he have ordered a mammogram or ultrasound to see what it is?
Probably the doctor made a determination based on the shape, texture and tenderness of the lump that it was a cyst. I hope that what he said to the patient was, “Usually a painful lump like this is not breast cancer.” However, what the patient took away was the message that breast cancer doesn’t hurt. And yes, he should have ordered an ultrasound. An ultrasound is an easy, comparatively inexpensive test that can usually tell for sure whether a lump is a harmless, fluid-filled cyst.
Our community member Peglove recently wrote a describing her experience with a painful lump:
Fortunately, Paget’s is not usually an aggressive form of breast cancer, but sometimes it is associated with other tumors inside the breast. For this reason it is important to see a doctor, especially for a rash on just one side.
Love, S. and K. Lindsey.Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book, 5th ed. Da Capo Press, 2010.
Screening And Breast Awareness
Breast screening is a breast health check, which is an x-ray type test of your breasts that can spot cancers at an early stage when theyre too small to see or feel. Breast screening is offered to all women in the UK between the ages of 50 and 70. Its really important that you look out for your invite and attend your screening.
The earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chance of beating it. Therefore, it is vitally important that you regularly check your breasts, work out what is normal for you and keep an eye out for any signs and symptoms of breast cancer. If you notice anything unusual, the first step is to visit your GP.
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Early Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer
Common symptoms of breast cancer include:
- A lump in your breast or underarm that doesnât go away. This is often the first symptom of breast cancer. Your doctor can usually see a lump on a mammogram long before you can see or feel it.
- Swelling in your armpit or near your collarbone. This could mean breast cancer has spread to lymph nodes in that area. Swelling may start before you feel a lump, so let your doctor know if you notice it.
- Pain and tenderness, although lumps donât usually hurt. Some may cause a prickly feeling.
- A flat or indented area on your breast. This could happen because of a tumor that you canât see or feel.
- Breast changes such as a difference in the size, contour, texture, or temperature of your breast.
- Changes in your nipple, like one that:
- Pulls inward
- Develops sores
Myth : Nipple Discharge Is Usually A Sign Of Cancer
No, the opposite is true. Many women have leftover milk in their ducts after breastfeeding, or they have debris that can cause greenish or even black discharge that can be squeezed out of the ducts, Dr. Pederson says.
Whats more concerning is bloody or clear discharge that leaks out when youre not squeezing, she says. This type of discharge can be a sign of breast cancer about 10 percent of the time. Even with bloody nipple discharge, the cause is usually a benign condition inside the milk duct.
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Signs Of Breast Cancer That Aren’t A Lump
The information on this page was reviewed and approved by
This page was updated on January 31, 2022.
For decades, the medical community and the media have waged an effective awareness campaign about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, educating the public about the importance of diligently monitoring their breasts for lumps. And the tactic has worked. Early detection has contributed to a 38 percent decline in breast cancer deaths in women from 1992 to 2018, according to the National Cancer Institute. While thats an important step forward, many other abnormalities that may also indicate breast cancer are lesser known and discussed. Some, then, may be led to assume that no lump and no tumor mean no cancer, but that may be a dangerous conclusion to draw.
When most people think about breast cancer symptoms, they think of breast lumps. But doctors say visual changes may be especially key in helping detect breast cancer early. You may notice some of these changes just by changing the way you look at your reflection in the mirror, says Cynthia Lynch, MD, Medical Oncologist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® , Phoenix.
In this article, well discuss the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, including:
Where Can Breast Cancer Spread
The most common places for breast cancer to spread to are the lymph nodes, bone, liver, lungs and brain. The symptoms you may experience will depend on where in the body the cancer has spread to. You might not have all of the symptoms mentioned here.
Remember other conditions can cause these symptoms. They don’t necessarily mean that you have cancer that has spread. But if you have symptoms that you are worried about, discuss them with your GP, cancer specialist, or breast care nurse so that you can be checked.
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Breast Changes And Conditions
As you await follow-up test results, remember that most breast changes are not cancer.
You may have just received an abnormal mammogram result, or perhaps you or your health care provider found a breast lump or other breast change. Keep in mind that breast changes are very common, and most are not cancer. This page can help you learn about symptoms during your lifetime that are not cancer as well as follow-up tests used to diagnose breast conditions and treatments for specific breast conditions.
How Your Breast Normally Feels
Texture of breasts can vary from person to person but generally feels firm to fatty with a slight rope-like consistency with minor nodular consistency. The main tissue is fatty and soft. Breast tissue changes through hormone cycles, often becoming swollen and tender during menstrual cycles. As age progresses, breasts increase in fat and often become larger. When irregular lumps form and painful lump in breast becomes an issue, doctor exams will help ensure the tissue remains healthy and disease is avoided.
What Vitamin Helps With Breast Pain
Vitamin B6magnesiumEvening primrose oilMore Cancer Signs and Symptoms
- Blood in the urine.
- Persistent lumps or swollen glands.
- Obvious change in a wart or a mole.
- Indigestion or difficulty swallowing.
- Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge.
- Unexpected weight loss, night sweats, or fever.
- Continued itching in the anal or genital area.
Skin Changes With The Breast
Many people may experience subtle or very noticeable changes with the actual skin and appearance of the breast, when they are suffering from many different forms of breast cancer, and it can typically be one of the earliest signs of this type of cancer. The skin may begin to feel itchy, or the patient may experience a tingling sensation across the skin of the breast, along with a redness in color. With inflammatory breast cancer, swelling and a dimpled look to the skin may also occur, due to the blockage of the lymph nodes that may be caused by a tumor or a growth.
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What Causes A Fibroadenoma
Its unknown exactly what causes fibroadenomas. Hormones such as estrogen may play a part in the growth and development of the tumors. Taking oral contraceptives before the age of 20 has been associated with a higher risk of developing fibroadenomas as well.
Some women have reported that avoiding foods and drinks that are stimulants like tea, chocolate, soft drinks, and coffee have improved their breast symptoms.
Even though this is worth trying, there are no studies that have scientifically established a link between ingesting stimulants and improving breast symptoms.
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Breast Pain And Breast Cancer In Men
As with breast cancer in women, breast cancer in men is often painless. That said, it tends to press on nearby structures sooner than a tumor would in most women. In addition, hormone-induced breast pain is also less likely to occur in men. If you are a man experiencing breast pain, play it safe. Breast cancer can and does occur in men. In fact, 1 in every 100 breast cancer diagnoses in the United States is in a man.
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How Can I Care For My Breast Infections At Home
While receiving treatment for infection, you can also take steps to relieve uncomfortable symptoms at home:
- Warm compresses may ease pain and help lactation. Try applying a warm, wet washcloth to the infected area for 15 minutes, four times a day.
- Empty the breast well.
- Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen , may help relieve pain.
- Use varied positions to breastfeed.
- If possible, avoid prolonged engorgement before breastfeeding. Feed or pump when its time.
Meeting with a lactation consultant to alter your breastfeeding technique or position may help prevent the infection from returning.
If youre breastfeeding, use these tips to reduce your chances of developing a breast infection:
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But Lets Look At It A Different Way
Can women with breast pain be diagnosed with a breast cancer?
Yes they can. But they are no more likely to be diagnosed than if they had a breast screening or just came for a check-up. About 50% of the women who come to a breast clinic have breast pain, most of these women will have some form of examination and scan/mammogram. So, a proportion of these women will be diagnosed with a breast cancer as they are essentially having a breast screening.
Most of the cancers found will be incidental, which means they are found in a separate part of the breast to where the pain is, or in the other breast. Very occasionally a cancerous lump can be painful, but these are rare occurrences. Therefore, if half the women coming to clinic have breast pain, and 1 in 100 of these then are diagnosed with a breast cancer, this means there are a lot of women with the experience of having had a breast pain and then being diagnosed with a cancer. These are clearly true experiences these women did have a breast pain and were diagnosed with a cancer.
In summary, breast pain is not a worrying symptom and is very rarely a symptom of a cancer. Breast pain is very common, as is breast cancer, so many women can experience the two together even though they are not directly linked.
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