Can Itching Be A Sign Of Breast Cancer
Itchiness of the breast is not usually due to cancer. It is usually due to other conditions that can affect the breast such as eczema or mastitis .
There is a condition that affects the nipple called Paget’s Disease that can cause itching.
This condition develops in the nipple or the darker area of skin around it . It usually first appears as a red, scaly rash of the skin that may look like eczema. There might also be some discharge or bleeding from the nipple.
With Pagets disease there might be breast cancer in the tissues behind the nipple. Or there might be carcinoma in situ. This means that there are cancer cells but they are completely contained within the lining of the breast ducts. It is possible for someone to have Pagets of the breast with no underlying cancer but this is less common.
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
Symptoms Of Angiosarcoma Of The Breast
Another rare form of breast cancer, angiosarcoma forms inside the lymph and blood vessels. Only a biopsy may definitively diagnose this type of cancer. Angiosarcoma can cause changes to the skin of your breast, such as the development of purple-colored nodules that resemble a bruise. These nodules, if bumped or scratched, may bleed. Over time, these discolored areas may expand, making your skin appear swollen in that area. You may or may not have breast lumps with angiosarcoma. If you also have lymphedema, which is swelling caused by a buildup of lymphatic fluid, angiosarcoma may occur in the affected arm. Cancer treatment sometimes damages the lymph vessels, which may lead to lymphedema.
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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.
What Is Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer is an uncommon form of breast cancer but is very aggressive. It is often very advanced by the time of diagnosis. It is called inflammatory because the breast often looks swollen and red .
Inflammatory breast cancer tends to be diagnosed in younger women than other forms of breast cancer. Because it is aggressive and often diagnosed at a late stage, the outlook is usually worse than for other breast cancers.
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What Are Skin Metastases
Skin metastases are secondary breast cancers that form on or just below the skin.
Secondary breast cancer happens when cancer cells spread from the breast to other parts of the body. Sometimes breast cancer cells can spread to the skin. This can happen through the blood or lymphatic system.
The most common sites affected are the areas near where the original breast cancer was for example the skin of the chest wall or around the surgical scar. Less commonly, skin metastases can occur on other areas of skin, such as on the scalp, neck, abdomen, back and upper limbs.
About a fifth of people with secondary breast cancer will develop skin metastases.
This is not the same as having cancer that starts in the skin. The cells that have spread to the skin are breast cancer cells.
Its also different to local recurrence, which is when primary breast cancer has come back in the chest or breast area, or in the skin near the original site or scar.
Benign Breast Lumps And Future Cancer Risk
- Women who had a history of benign breast disease are more likely to develop breast cancer than those who have never had any breast disease. According to a 2019 study in the International Journal of Cancer, benign breast disease increases the risk of developing breast cancer in the future, in addition to the risk that a woman may already have due to family history, personal breast cancer history, or a genetic mutation.
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What Can I Expect At My Doctors Appointment
Make an appointment with your primary care doctor or gynecologist. Tell your doctor about the new spot youve identified and the symptoms you feel. Your doctor will likely conduct a full breast exam and may also check nearby spots, including your collarbone, neck, and armpit areas.
Based on what they feel, your doctor may order additional testing, such as a mammogram, ultrasound, or biopsy.
Your doctor may also suggest a period of watchful waiting. During this time, you and your doctor will continue to monitor the lump for any changes or growth. If theres any growth, your doctor should begin testing to rule out cancer.
Be honest with your doctor about your concerns. If your personal or family history puts you at a higher risk of having breast cancer, you may want to move forward with the appropriate diagnostic testing so you can know for sure if your breast lump is cancer or something else.
Certain risk factors can increase your chances of developing breast cancer. Some risk factors cant be changed others may be reduced or even eliminated based on your lifestyle choices.
The most significant breast cancer risk factors include:
- Gender. Women are more likely to develop breast cancer than men.
- Age. Invasive breast cancer is more common in women over age 55.
- Family history. If a first-degree relative, such as a mother, sister, or daughter, has had breast cancer, your risk is
less than one percent of all breast cancers occur in men.
How To Perform A Self
Screening techniques help you and your doctor identify suspicious spots in your breast. A mammogram is a common screening option. A breast self-exam is another.
The self-exam was considered an important part of early breast cancer detection for many decades. Today, however, it may lead to too many unnecessary biopsies and surgical procedures.
Still, your doctor may recommend a self-exam to you. At the very least, the exam can help you familiarize yourself with your breasts appearance, shape, texture, and size. Knowing what your breasts should feel like could help you spot a potential problem more easily.
1) Pick a date. Hormones impact how your breasts feel, so its a good idea to wait a few days after your menstrual cycle ends. If you do not have a period, pick a date on the calendar you can easily remember, such as the first or fifteenth, and schedule your self-exam.
2) Take a look. Remove your top and bra. Stand in front of a mirror. Observe how your breasts look, inspecting them for changes in symmetry, shape, size, or color. Raise both arms, and repeat the visual inspection, noting the changes to your breasts shape and size when your arms are extended.
4) Squeeze your nipple. Gently squeeze on each nipple to see if you have any discharge.
6) Keep a journal. Subtle changes may be hard to detect, but a journal might help you see developments as they occur. Jot down any unusual spots and check them again in a few weeks. If you find any lumps, see your doctor.
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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
Alexandra Was An Exception Breast Pain Alone Hardly Ever Means Cancer
WHEN former Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman revealed last month that shed been treated for breast cancer, one fact in her account leapt out at me as, I suspect, it did for millions of other women who read it.
Her only symptom, she wrote in The Mail on Sunday, was breast pain something that so many of us suffer.
Alexandra was specific: it was an intermittent sharp pain under my left breast, as if the wire from a bra was cutting in.
There was no lump. Nothing else. And she wasnt all that worried. Friends had told her: Well at least its not breast cancer because you dont get a pain with breast cancer.
And in the vast majority of cases, they would have been right. The symptoms of breast cancer, aside from a lump, are skin changes puckering, or a rash or changes to or a discharge from the nipple.
These can be accompanied by pain. But they may not be. Pain alone is not a recognised symptom of breast cancer.
But Alexandra, remembering the recent, awful case of pop singer Sarah Harding, who died in September of breast cancer, decided to get checked out. Sarah, too, talked about suffering pain. She ignored it, thinking it was her guitar strap rubbing.
And, horribly, by the time she was diagnosed she went to the doctor after noticed bruising around her breast her cancer was advanced, and incurable.
These often require antibiotics, and if theres an abscess an infected pocket of pus then surgery to drain it might be needed.
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What Is Paget’s Disease Of The Breast
Paget’s disease of the breast is a rare type of cancer of the nipple area of the breast. It presents as eczema affecting the nipple and is often associated with an underlying in-situ or invasive carcinoma of the breast.
Many women find that their breasts become more lumpy and tender before periods. Breasts also alter their size and shape with increasing age, pregnancy and marked weight changes. What is important is that you get to know your own breasts – how they look and feel – and report any changes promptly to a doctor.
There are a number of things to look out for which might be breast cancer signs:
Cancer Tumors Versus Cysts And Fibroadenomas
Cysts, which are fluid-filled lumps, are common in the breast and are benign. They form when fluid builds up inside breast glands, and tend to be smooth or round. Fibroadenomas, which are benign tumors made up of glandular and connective breast tissue, are usually smooth and firm or rubbery to the touch. Both of these conditions tend to affect younger women fibroadenomas are most common in women in their 20s and 30s, and cysts are most common in women under 40.
Despite these common descriptions, it is impossible to tell by touch whether a lump is cancer.
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When To See Your Healthcare Provider
It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you have breast pain from any cause. Even if it’s not due to cancer, many women find that breast pain decreases their quality of life. In one study, 15% of women experienced breast pain at some time in their life that interfered with work and family activities. Make sure to talk to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any unusual discomfort.
How Breast Cancer Pain May Feel
While many types of breast pain are not cancerous, pain in only one breast may be cause for calling your doctor. Benign breast pain is often on both sides.
Breast cancer pain can be persistent and very specific, usually hurting in just one spot. It is important to remember that breast cancer can be present in your breast before it causes pain. If you have other symptoms of breast cancer, such as nipple retraction , sudden swelling of your breast, or sudden skin changes, consult your healthcare provider for a clinical breast exam.
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Pagets Disease Of The Breast
This is a rare skin condition that is sometimes a sign of an underlying breast cancer. The symptoms are a red, scaly rash on the nipple and surrounding area. This can be itchy and looks a bit like eczema. It is sometimes mistaken for eczema at first.
See your doctor if you have any changes in the skin of your breast.
Myth #: People With Metastatic Breast Cancer Have A Short Amount Of Time Left
While some people mistakenly think MBC is curable, at the other extreme are those who assume its an immediate death sentence. But there is a big difference between stage IV incurable cancer, which MBC is, and terminal cancer, which can no longer be treated. A person isnt automatically terminal when she or he gets a metastatic diagnosis. Although MBC almost certainly will shorten someones life, it often can be managed for years at a time.
As Illimae of Houston points out: Stage IV is not an immediate death sentence. It feels that way at first but many have months/years of reasonably decent condition. Brain mets are not necessarily the end either. When found early and treated, especially with minimal disease in the body, life can resume to a fairly normal state.
Mermaid007 adds: hen I was diagnosed with bone mets I felt I needed to go home and get my affairs in order when here I am 4 and half years later.
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Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms
Metastatic breast cancer symptoms depend on the part of the body to which the cancer has spread and its stage. Sometimes, metastatic disease may not cause any symptoms.
- If the breast or chest wall is affected, symptoms may include pain, nipple discharge, or a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm.
- If the bones are affected, symptoms may include pain, fractures, constipation or decreased alertness due to high calcium levels.
- If tumors form in the lungs, symptoms may include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, coughing, chest wall pain or extreme fatigue.
- If the liver is affected, symptoms may include nausea, extreme fatigue, increased abdominal girth, swelling of the feet and hands due to fluid collection and yellowing or itchy skin.
- If breast cancer spreads to the brain or spinal cord and forms tumors, symptoms may include pain, confusion, memory loss, headache, blurred or double vision, difficulty with speech, difficulty with movement or seizures.
Statistics On Breast Cancer And Pain
A breast tumora hard clump of breast cancer cellsdoesn’t usually cause breast pain unless it reaches the size of 2 centimeters in diameter or greater. But a tumor can be larger than 2 centimeters and still not cause pain.
For many women, breast pain is not their reporting symptom. One study found that only 6% of women reported breast pain as their main symptom. While most women with breast cancer report that a breast lump was their main symptom, 1 in 6 report a different symptom, including breast pain.
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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.
Myth #: Metastatic Breast Cancer Is Curable
Whether metastatic breast cancer is someones first diagnosis or a recurrence after treatment for earlier-stage breast cancer, it cant be cured. However, treatments can keep it under control, often for months at a time. People with MBC report fielding questions from family and friends such as, When will you finish your treatments? or Wont you be glad when youre done with all of this? The reality is they will be in treatment for the rest of their lives.
A typical pattern is to take a treatment regimen as long as it keeps the cancer under control and the side effects are tolerable. If it stops working, a patient can switch to another option. There may be periods of time when the cancer is well-controlled and a person can take a break. But people with MBC need to be in treatment for the rest of their lives.
As Breastcancer.org Community member Vlnprh of Wisconsin comments: The vast majority of people have no idea what MBC treatment involves. They somehow think that you will undergo something similar to early-stage patients surgery, radiation, chemo, whatever and then be done. They want to see you as a pink-tutu-wearing cheerleader jumping up and down declaring that you have beaten this disease
Amarantha of France writes: The one I get over and over is, How long will you be on this chemo? I mean doesn’t it end sometime? Yes, it ends when it stops working and then we go on to another treatment lather, rinse, repeat I guess until we run out of options.
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