Pain In A Particular Spot On The Breast Or Nipple
If you have a sharp, stabbing pain at a particular point in your breast or nipple, it may be a cause for concern. Dr. Waer explains that this is called “focal breast or nipple pain,” and can be a signal of developing breast cancer. If it doesn’t resolve and has no other apparent cause, it needs to be examined.
Overlooked Signs Of Breast Cancer
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Amy Tiersten, MD
Amy Tiersten, MD
Everyone talks about the importance of catching breast lumps as early as possible. But did you know thereâs a host of lesser known breast cancer symptoms that might not show up on a self-exam or mammogram?
According to the American Cancer Society , breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, other than skin cancers, and itâs the second-most deadly cancer for women behind lung cancer.
On average, thereâs about a 1 in 8 chance that a U.S. woman will develop breast cancer at some point in their life. The ACA estimates that more than 40,000 women will die from breast cancer in 2020.
The most common form of breast cancer is invasive breast cancer, which is any type that has invaded the breast tissue.
Less common forms include inflammatory breast cancer and Pagetâs disease, which involves the skin of the nipple or areola.
With the high rates of breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends women have the choice to start annual mammograms at age 40. The organization says women between the ages of 45 and 54 should get mammograms every year.
And while the disease is most commonly discovered by detecting a lump during a mammogram, there are other lesser known signs and symptoms of breast cancer that women should look out for.
Signs Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Another type of breast cancer, known as inflammatory breast cancer , will only rarely cause lumps or symptoms. This type of breast cancer does not show up on a mammogram. Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer may include:
- Red, swollen, itchy breast
- Tenderness of the breast when touched
- A pitted or ridged appearance of the surface of the breast
- Aching, burning, heaviness in one breast
- One breast that is significantly larger than the other breast
- A nipple that faces inward
- Swollen lymph nodes under the arm
- Swollen lymph nodes above the collarbone
- Other symptoms that do not go away after you take a course of antibiotics
It is important to remember that several other conditions besides cancer can cause these changes. Eczema can cause changes to the texture of the skin on your breasts, for example, and many illnesses can cause swollen lymph nodes. Breasts may change size during your menstrual cycle, inverted or flat nipples throughout life are common, and milk leaks are very normal during pregnancy or shortly after you have had a baby.
If you notice changes in the size of only one breast, skin changes not associated with eczema, changes in the size or shape of only one breast, or have nipple discharge when you are not pregnant or during postpartum, however, you should seek a medical opinion. Other signs to look for are nipples that invert or flatten suddenly or a feeling of warmth inside your breast.
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What Can You Do To Prevent Breast Cancer
Breast cancer cannot be prevented, but there are ways you can achieve an overall healthy lifestyle in mind, body and spirit to decrease your breast cancer risk factors.
- Eat balanced meals with many fruits and vegetables
- Drink plenty of water
- Support bone health through physical activity and appropriate intake of vitamin D and calcium
- Limit your alcohol use to no more than one glass a day
- Get enough rest
New Shape Or Increase In Breast Size
An enlarged breast â particularly if the swelling is isolated to one breast â or a change in the shape of the breast, can indicate issues within the tissue.
âAn unusual shape where the contour is distorted and thereâs a bulge in one part of the breast can be a sign of cancer,â says Weiss.
âIt could feel like a lump, but it could also just be a region of the breast that feels firmer, and you canât really feel a lump within it,â she says. âIt also often becomes more pronounced when moving in different positions.â
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Signs Of Invasive Breast Cancers
Invasive breast cancers can cause specific signs and symptoms, such as:
- Itchy or irritated breasts
- Changes in the color of your breasts, such as redness
- A rapid change in the shape of your breast or an increase in breast size over a short period
- Changes in the way your breasts feel when you touch them they may be hard, tender, or warm to the touch
- Flaking or peeling or flaking of the nipple skin
- Feeling a lump in your breast or thickening of the breast tissue
- Pitting of the skin on your breast, making it look somewhat like the skin of an orange
When To Contact A Doctor
People should not panic or be fearful when they notice breast changes. Aging, changes in hormone levels, and other factors can lead to breast changes throughout a persons lifetime.
However, people should be proactive about their health and visit a doctor to determine the cause of any breast symptoms.
Each of the nine changes listed above can warrant a trip to the doctor, especially if these changes do not seem to relate to one of the following:
- the menstrual cycle
- previous illness, such as a breast infection
A doctor can evaluate the symptoms, examine the affected breast or breasts, and recommend further studies if necessary. They may suggest a mammogram, ultrasound, other imaging tests, or bloodwork to rule out infection or other potential causes.
There are a number of other reasons a person may experience breast pain, which include:
- bras that do not fit correctly
- hormonal changes
- Menopause: This can cause breasts to become smaller and lumpy. It can also cause lumps to disappear as the breast tissue becomes less dense and more fatty.
- Menstrual cycle: Breasts may feel swollen, tender, or painful, and lumps can appear. These changes occur before menstruation.
- Pregnancy: Milk glands increase in number and size and so can cause lumps.
- Breastfeeding: This can cause mastitis, which may make the breast feel warm and tender, as well as red and lumpy.
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What Are Some Common Breast Cancer Symptoms
Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer Breast cancer doesnt always cause noticeable signs or symptoms. It may be so mild that you dont even know you have it until a doctor finds the cancer through a mammogram or physical exam. Some women have no signs or symptoms at all.
You Cant Stop Itching Your Nipples
Sometimes the girls just need a good scratch, especially if youre wearing a bra edged with lace or sequins. But if your nips are constantly itchy theres a good possibility something else is up and you need to get them checked, Dr. Patt says.
Many things can cause itchy nipples, including a yeast infection or other infection, allergies, and irritation from clothing. But there is a rare type of breast cancer that can cause a dry, red, itchy rash to appear on or around your nipples, similar to the type you get with eczema, she explains.
Regardless of the cause, an itchy rash is one symptom you should always have your doctor take a look at, particularly if it doesnt go away after a week or two.
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Other Causes Of Breast Pain And Tenderness
We often associate pain with something wrong, so when people feel tenderness or pain in their breast, they often think of breast cancer. But breast pain is rarely the first noticeable symptom of breast cancer. Several other factors can cause pain.
Clinically known as mastalgia, breast pain can also be caused by the following:
- the fluctuation of hormones caused by menstruation
Changes In Breast Size
Breast size can change for any number of reasons, including pregnancy and the menstrual cycle. However, if the change is asymmetrical , that should raise a red flag.
Sometimes, the enlarged breast can feel harder or noticeably heavier than the other. An even less common symptom is a decrease in breast size on one side. You should not ignore either of these changes.
If a change in breast size is sudden and asymmetrical, have it checked out as soon as possible, and take note of any other symptoms you may have.
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Uncommon Breast Cancer Symptoms
While breast lumps are a common warning sign of possible breast cancer, theyre not the only one. Other, lesser-known symptoms could also point to the disease.
Like breast lumps, these less common symptoms could also reflect benign conditions. However, you should be checked by a doctor if you have any of them. We asked Holly Pederson, MD, director of medical breast services at the Cleveland Clinic, to explain.
WebMD: Besides lumps, what other symptoms might indicate breast cancer?
Pederson: One less common sign is breast puckering. If a woman lifts her arm and looks in the mirror, there can be a puckering of the skin. If you lift your arms overhead and have a puckering anywhere it should be checked out. When the tumor grows, it disrupts the architecture and can cause a puckering of the ligaments inside. Puckering looks like kind of an indentation that comes back to normal as you put your arms back down.
Another less common sign is nipple discharge that comes out on its own. Nipple discharge is a relatively common complaint. If it occurs only with squeezing of the nipple and is on both sides and is white or greenish or even brownish, it is usually not a sign of breast cancer.
But when it comes out on its own, from one nipple, and is bloody or clear, it might be a sign of breast cancer.
WebMD: Any other uncommon symptoms to know about?
WebMD: Women should still be on the outlook for breast lumps, right? If so, whats the best way?
Surprising Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
For American women, breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer after skin cancer. On average, one in eight women and one in 1,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime.
Thanks to breast cancer awareness initiatives launched by charities including Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, most U.S. women and men know that if they, or a loved one, discover a lump in their breast, they should be screened for breast cancer. You may be surprised to learn theres a type of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer, accounting for less than 5% of all cases, that doesnt develop a lump. Instead, this type of cancer blocks the lymph vessels, causing fluids to back up and generating unusual symptoms including persistent breast itching, nipple discharge, and a mark that looks like an insect bite that doesnt go away.
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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
Symptoms Of Breast Cancer In Women That Arent Lumps
No need to Google early signs of breast cancer to know one of the telltale symptoms include a lump in the breast. Irregularities, like lumps and bumps, are, after all, the most common thing women are told to keep an eye and feel out for during a breast self-exam. But what about breast cancer symptoms that *arent* lumps? Theyre more common than you might realize.
A non-lump symptom was exactly what Meghan Hall, 34, discovered before she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I noticed something green spilled on the front of my shirt, I didnt think anything of ituntil I tried to take it off and realized it was stuck to my nipple, Meghan told WH. My breast was leaking green fluid.
Thats right: Meghans breast cancer symptom was green fluid leaking from her nipplesand her experience isnt unique. One in six women who discovered their cancer themselves caught it based on a less-obvious breast cancer symptom, like nipple abnormalities and weight loss , according to a 2017 study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology.
These self-reported breast cancersespecially ones that dont involve the typical lumphighlight why its so important to pay attention to any strange signs or symptoms or changes you may be experiencing, in addition to staying on top of your mammograms and annual checkups, says Neelima Denduluri, MD, the associate chair of the U.S. Oncology Network Breast Committee.
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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, such as a cyst or fibroadenoma.
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.
You Notice Changes That Arent Related To Your Boobs At All
Back pain, neck pain, and unexplained weight loss were all listed as other breast cancer symptoms that led women to seek medical care and ultimately get diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the study published in Cancer Epidemiology.
Thats because breast cancer can spread before its caught, causing symptoms in body parts that have nothing to do with your boobs. Its not possible to identify every possible sign of breast cancer so when it comes to early detection, you are your own best weapon, says Dr. Denduluri. Overall, any persistent, noticeable change should be checked by a doctor.
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The 5 Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer
Here are 5 warning signs that you might have breast cancer:
- A new lump in your breast or underarm : Lumps are the most common and noticeable warning signs of breast cancer. Very small lumps, that cannot be seen or felt by the naked eye, are only detected by a radiologist during a mammogram.
- Swelling or a lump under the arm or near the collarbone: this symptom could mean there is some spread of abnormal cells/tissue to lymph nodes . Any swelling or unusual lumps may indicate lymph node invasion. Swelling is typically noticed before a lump is discovered.
- Increase in size, shape, or feel of the breast.
- Change in the feel or look of the nipple.
- Swelling, redness, or darkening of the surface of your breast.
Beyond The Lump: Lesser Known Breast Cancer Warning Signs
The more familiar you become with your breasts, the more likely youll be to notice changes. While lumps sometimes form deep within breast tissue , other breast cancer red flags occur on the surface of the breast. Theyre easily detectable if you know what to look for. Here are six symptoms to watch for. If you detect one or more, you should be evaluated as soon as possible by a qualified physician.