Breast Cancer Types And Symptoms
There are several kinds of breast cancer. Many of them share symptoms.
Symptoms of ductal carcinoma
This is the most common type of breast cancer. It begins in your ducts. About 1 in 5 new breast cancers are ductal carcinoma in situ . This means you have cancer in the cells that line your ducts, but it hasnât spread into nearby tissue.
You may not notice any symptoms of ductal carcinoma. It can also cause a breast lump or bloody discharge.
Symptoms of lobular carcinoma
This kind begins in the glands that make milk, called lobules. Itâs the second most common type of breast cancer. Symptoms include:
- Fullness, thickening, or swelling in one area
- Nipples that are flat or point inward
Symptoms of invasive breast cancer
Breast cancer thatâs spread from where it began into the tissues around it is called invasive or infiltrating. You may notice:
- A lump in your breast or armpit. You might not be able to move it separately from your skin or move it at all.
- One breast that looks different from the other
- A rash or skin thatâs thick, red, or dimpled like an orange
- Skin sores
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Muscle weakness
Symptoms of triple-negative breast cancer
Breast cancer is called triple-negative if it doesnât have receptors for the hormones estrogen and progesterone and doesnât make a lot of a protein called HER2. This kind tends to grow and spread faster than other types, and doctors treat it differently.
Symptoms of male breast cancer
- A small, hard cyst
Nipple Retraction Or Inversion
Breast cancer can cause cell changes behind the nipple. These changes can result in the nipple inverting and reversing inward into the breast, or it may look different in terms of its size.
The appearance of the nipples can often alter during ovulation or other parts of the menstrual cycle, but people should see a doctor about any new nipple changes.
What Are The Symptoms Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include swelling and redness that affect a third or more of the breast. The skin of the breast may also appear pink, reddish purple, or bruised. In addition, the skin may have ridges or appear pitted, like the skin of an orange . These symptoms are caused by the buildup of fluid in the skin of the breast. This fluid buildup occurs because cancer cells have blocked lymph vessels in the skin, preventing the normal flow of lymph through the tissue. Sometimes the breast may contain a solid tumor that can be felt during a physical exam, but more often a tumor cannot be felt.
Other symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include a rapid increase in breast size sensations of heaviness, burning, or tenderness in the breast or a nipple that is inverted . Swollen lymph nodes may also be present under the arm, near the collarbone, or both.
It is important to note that these symptoms may also be signs of other diseases or conditions, such as an infection, injury, or another type of breast cancer that is locally advanced. For this reason, women with inflammatory breast cancer often have a delayed diagnosis of their disease.
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Symptoms And Diagnosis Of Bone Metastasis
A sudden, noticeable new pain is the most common symptom of breast cancer that has spread to the bone. The pain may come and go at first but can become constant over time. It can be hard to tell the difference between bone metastasis pain and arthritis pain or exercise strain. If the pain feels just as bad or even worse when you rest or lie down, it can be a sign of a problem. Its a good idea to see your doctor right away if it is bone metastasis, prompt treatment can prevent a fracture down the road.
Complications of bone metastasis are called skeletal-related events and can include the following:
sudden severe pain and the inability to move, which can be a sign of fracture
pain in the back or neck, numbness or weakness in an area of the body, or difficulty passing urine or having bowel movements all possible signs of spine compression, which can happen when a fractured vertebra presses on the spinal cord nerves that control various bodily functions
fatigue, weakness, nausea, loss of appetite, or dehydration, which can indicate very high levels of calcium in the blood due to bone breakdown
To diagnose bone metastasis, your doctor usually orders one or more of the following imaging tests:
Your doctor also may order a blood test to check for high levels of calcium or alkaline phosphatase , another substance that can be elevated because of bone metastasis.
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Invasive Breast Cancer Symptoms
Most breast cancers start in the ducts, or the tubes that carry milk to the nipple, or in the lobules, the little clusters of sacs where breast milk is made. Invasive breast cancer refers to breast cancer that spreads from the original site to other areas of the breast, the lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body. In these cancers that form in the ducts or lobules, invasive ductal carcinoma or invasive lobular carcinoma , the cancer spreads from the ducts or lobules to other tissue. Depending on the stage, you may notice symptoms.
Invasive breast cancer symptoms may include:
- A lump or mass in the breast
- Swelling of all or part of the breast, even if no lump is felt
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- A lump or swelling in the underarm lymph nodes
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Breast Lumps Or Lumpiness
Many women find their breasts feel lumpy. Breast tissue naturally has a bumpy texture.
Some women have more lumpiness in their breasts than others. In most cases, this lumpiness is no cause to worry.
If the lumpiness can be felt throughout the breast and feels like your other breast, then its likely normal breast tissue.
Lumps that feel harder or different from the rest of the breast or that feel like a change should be checked. This type of lump may be a sign of breast cancer or a benign breast condition .
See a health care provider if you:
- Find a new lump that feels different from the rest of your breast
- Find a new lump that feels different from your other breast
- Feel something thats different from what you felt before
If youve had a benign lump in the past, dont assume a new lump will also be benign. The new lump may not be breast cancer, but its best to make sure.
About Breast And Armpit Pain
Its important to point out that this type of pain doesnt just affect women. Breast and armpit pain can affect people of all genders.
That said, people assigned female at birth can experience two different types of breast pain. These are cyclic and noncyclic breast pain.
Are There Alternative Ways To Treat Breast Cancer Pain
An accurate diagnosis of the cause of pain can be challenging, and effective pain management can be complex. Pain management specialists employ an interdisciplinary approach to ease suffering and improve quality of life of those living with pain.
In addition to medications, a specialist might recommend:
- Physical therapy
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Who Does Breast Cancer Affect
Breast cancer mainly affects older women.
Most breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50. And the older you are, the higher your risk.
Men can also get breast cancer, but this is rare. Most men who get breast cancer are over 60.
Breast cancer is caused by a combination of our genes, environment and lifestyles. Find out more about breast cancer causes.
Does A Benign Breast Condition Mean That I Have A Higher Risk Of Getting Breast Cancer
Benign breast conditions rarely increase your risk of breast cancer. Some women have biopsies that show a condition called hyperplasia . This condition increases your risk only slightly.
When the biopsy shows hyperplasia and abnormal cells, which is a condition called atypical hyperplasia, your risk of breast cancer increases somewhat more. Atypical hyperplasia occurs in about 5% of benign breast biopsies.
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Breast Pain Not Linked To Periods
Its often unclear what causes non-cyclical breast pain.
It can be related to:
- a benign breast condition
- previous surgery to the breast
- injury to the breast
- having larger breasts
- a side effect from a drug treatment, such as certain antidepressant drugs and some herbal remedies such as ginseng
Stress and anxiety can also be linked to breast pain.
Non-cyclical breast pain may be continuous or it may come and go. It can affect women before and after the menopause.
The pain can be in one or both breasts and can affect the whole breast or a specific area. It may be a burning, prickling or stabbing pain, or a feeling of tightness.
Non-cyclical breast pain often goes away by itself over time. This happens in about half the women who experience it.
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
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Living With Breast Cancer
Being diagnosed with breast cancer can affect daily life in many ways, depending on what stage itâs at and what treatment youâre having.
How women cope with their diagnosis and treatment varies from person to person. You can be reassured that there are several forms of support available, if you need it. For example:
- your family and friends can be a powerful support system
- you can communicate with other people in the same situation
- find out as much as possible about your condition
- donât try to do too much or overexert yourself
- make time for yourself
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Keep An Eye On Nipple Issues
Sometimes breast cancer can cause a nipple to invert or sink into the breast. A rare type called Paget disease also causes a rash on the nipple and areola.
Breast cancer can also sometimes cause fluid to leak from the nipples. This is not the same as the milky discharge from both breasts thats common if youre pregnant and for up to a year after youve stopped breastfeeding. Thyroid problems, pituitary tumors, and some medications can also cause nipple discharge.
What youre looking for here is clear or bloody fluid that may come from just one breast instead of both or is associated with a lump. If thats you, get yourself checked out ASAP.
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Treatments For Bone Metastases
To understand how treatments for bone metastasis work, it can help to first understand how breast cancer cells behave in the bones.
A bone can function like a storage tank that traps and holds breast cancer cells. For some time, those cells may not cause any problems. Eventually, though, the cancer cells can hijack the normal, healthy process through which bone tissue regenerates itself.
Your bones are constantly breaking down and clearing away old cells and stimulating new cells to grow. Breast cancer cells in the bone can speed up the breakdown of normal bone tissue and weaken the bones. This is called osteolytic metastasis. Breast cancer cells also can overstimulate the production of new bone, leading to large, rigid growths. This is called osteoblastic metastasis.
Its possible to have osteolytic metastasis, osteoblastic metastasis, or a combination of both. Treatment helps slow or stop these bone metastasis cycles to reduce the risk of whats called a skeletal-related event .
hypercalcemia of malignancy, or an excessive amount of calcium in the blood
Its important to address any potential symptoms of bone metastases quickly. In addition to controlling the growth of the cancer, the goals of treatment for bone metastasis are to relieve pain, preserve function, and prevent SREs. Doctors can often stabilize bone metastases and help people manage it for long periods of time.
the cancer is growing quickly
Learn more about Hormonal Therapy.
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.
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By Step Guide On How To Perform Breast Self Exam At Home:
Look at your breasts in the mirror Position your shoulders straight and place your arms on your hips. See if your breasts have their usual size, shape, color and whether they have visible swelling or change in shape. Check that they dont have dimpling or puckering of the skin, or that they became red, sore, swollen or have rash. Also check your nipples to see if they became inverted or changed their position.
Raise your arms and look for the same changes. Squeeze the nipple and check if fluid comes out of one or both nipples. The discharge can be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood.
Check your breast when lying down Use your right hand to feel your left breast and then vice versa. When feeling your breast with your hands, keep your fingers together and use the first few finger pads applying small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.
Check yourself in the shower Many women find that it is easier to check for changes in the breast when their hands are wet and slippery with soap and water. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements as when lying down and check for any lumps or thickening in your underarm area too.
If you find something suspicious with your breast dont panic, as most of the lumps are not cancerous and many breast changes are not associated with cancer, but for your own peace of mind call your doctor if you have any concerns.
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Other Key Grants Across The Uk
Walk the Walk has made a number of other key grants to help support the diagnosis of breast cancer and to improve the lives of those who have already been diagnosed with cancer.
Scalp Cooling helps cancer patients to keep their hair whilst undergoing their chemotherapy. It is not lifesaving but makes such a difference to the quality of life for many people. This is our own project and over the past 15 years, we set ourselves the ambitious task of removing the postcode lottery and ensuring that every cancer patient should be able to receive this treatment. We have granted in excess of £10 million to over 200 NHS Trusts. See more here.
At the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, Walk the Walk contributed £5 million to fund a new breast cancer ward, a new operating theatre, and the renovation of the Mammography Unit. Together this has transformed not only the patient experience from breast checks through to treatment but also the working conditions for staff!
Tenovus is a Cardiff based charity that uses Mobile Cancer Support Units to take chemotherapy and lymphatic drainage to cancer patients living in the more rural areas of Wales. Walk the Walk has helped fund two of the units – read more about them here.
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When Should I See My Doctor
Breast pain alone is rarely a symptom of breast cancer, but its always best to talk to your doctor .
Its important to make an appointment to see your doctor if:
- You have breast pain every day for more than a couple of weeks.
- Your breast pain seems to be getting worse over time.
- You have pain in one particular area of your breast.
- Your breast pain interferes with your daily activities.
Breast Pain Linked To Periods
Many women feel discomfort and lumpiness in both breasts a week or so before their period.
The pain can vary from mild to severe and the breasts can also be tender and sore to touch.
You may experience heaviness, tenderness, a burning, prickling or stabbing pain, or a feeling of tightness.
The pain usually affects both breasts but it can affect just one breast. It can also spread to the armpit, down the arm and to the shoulder blade.
Cyclical breast pain is linked to changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle. The pain often goes away once a period starts. In some women, this type of pain will go away by itself, but it can come back.
This type of pain usually stops after the menopause, though women taking hormone replacement therapy can also have breast pain.
Breast pain can also be associated with starting to take or changing contraception that contains hormones.
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