Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
In its early stages, breast cancer may not cause any symptoms. In many cases, a tumor may be too small to be felt, but an abnormality can still be seen on a mammogram.
If a tumor can be felt, the first sign is usually a new lump in the breast that was not there before. However, not all lumps are cancer.
Each type of breast cancer can cause a variety of symptoms. Many of these symptoms are similar, but some can be different. Symptoms for the most common breast cancers include:
- a breast lump or tissue thickening that feels different from surrounding tissue and is new
- changes to the appearance of the skin on your breasts
- a lump or swelling under your arm
If you have any of these symptoms, it doesnt necessarily mean you have breast cancer. For instance, pain in your breast or a breast lump can be caused by a benign cyst.
Still, if you find a lump in your breast or have other symptoms, contact your doctor for further examination and testing.
You Notice Dimply Scaly Patchy Or Inflamed Skin
You know your boobs and all their little quirks so if you notice any changes to their normal appearance, pay attention, says Debra Patt, MD, OB-GYN, and breast cancer expert with Texas Oncology, a practice in the US Oncology Network.
“Any unusual thickening, redness, rash, dimpling, or puckering of your breast skin, or around the nipple, should be checked out by your doctor,” she explains.
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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Tests To Determine Specific Types Of Treatment
You’ll also need tests that show whether the cancer will respond to specific types of treatment. The results of these tests can give your doctors a more complete picture of the type of cancer you have and how best to treat it. The types of test you could be offered are discussed below.
In some cases, breast cancer cells can be stimulated to grow by hormones that occur naturally in your body, such as oestrogen and progesterone.
If this is the case, the cancer may be treated by stopping the effects of the hormones, or by lowering the level of these hormones in your body. This is known as ‘hormone therapy’.
During a hormone receptor test, a sample of cancer cells will be taken from your breast and tested to see if they respond to either oestrogen or progesterone. If the hormone is able to attach to the cancer cells , they’re known as ‘hormone receptor positive’.
While hormones can encourage the growth of some types of breast cancer, other types are stimulated by a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 .
These types of cancer can be diagnosed using a HER2 test, and treated with medication to block the effects of HER2. This is known as ‘biological’ or ‘targeted’ therapy.
What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider
Learning everything you can about your diagnosis can help you make informed decisions about your health. Here are some questions you may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- Where is the tumor located?
- Has the tumor spread?
- What stage breast cancer do I have?
- What do the estrogen receptor , progesterone receptor and HER2 tests show and what do the results mean for me?
- What are my treatment options?
- Is breast cancer surgery an option for me?
- Will I be able to work while I undergo treatment?
- How long will my treatment last?
- What other resources are available to me?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Being diagnosed with breast cancer can feel scary, frustrating and even hopeless. If you or a loved one is facing this disease, its important to take advantage of the many resources available to you. Talk to your healthcare provider about your treatment options. You may even want to get a second opinion before making a decision. You should feel satisfied and optimistic about your treatment plan. Finally, joining a local support group can help with feelings of isolation and allow you to talk with other people who are going through the same thing.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/21/2022.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services.Policy
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Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer
Most early-stage breast cancers in the U.S. are found with screening mammography, before any warning signs or symptoms appear.
However, breast cancer also is found when there are warning signs. So, its important to be aware of these warning signs and see a health care provider if you notice any breast changes.
About Prevent Breast Cancer
Prevent Breast Cancer is the only UK charity entirely dedicated to the prediction and prevention of breast cancer were committed to freeing the world from the disease altogether. Unlike many cancer charities, were focused on preventing, rather than curing. Promoting early diagnosis, screening and lifestyle changes, we believe we can stop the problem before it starts. And being situated at the only breast cancer prevention centre in the UK, were right at the front-line in the fight against the disease.
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Diagnosis Of Breast Cancer
To determine if your symptoms are caused by breast cancer or a benign breast condition, your doctor will do a thorough physical exam in addition to a breast exam. They may also request one or more diagnostic tests to help understand whats causing your symptoms.
Tests that can help your doctor diagnose breast cancer include:
- Mammogram. The most common way to see below the surface of your breast is with an imaging test called a mammogram. Many women ages 40 and older get annual mammograms to check for breast cancer. If your doctor suspects you may have a tumor or suspicious spot, they will also request a mammogram. If an atypical area is seen on your mammogram, your doctor may request additional tests.
- Ultrasound. A breast ultrasound uses sound waves to create a picture of the tissues deep in your breast. An ultrasound can help your doctor distinguish between a solid mass, such as a tumor, and a benign cyst.
Your doctor may also suggest tests such as an MRI or a breast biopsy.
If you dont already have a primary care doctor, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.
Early Signs Of Breast Cancer
Pinpointing breast cancer in its earliest stages isnt easy because breast cancer signs and symptoms are different for everyone. Sometimes there is a palpable lump or tenderness. Very often, there is neither. Generally, breast cancer shows no symptoms in the early stage.
However, there are certain changes in the breast that may indicate breast cancer in both men and women.
Whether you are a man or a woman, its important to become familiar with your breasts so you can recognize when changes occur and seek timely treatment. Know the facts and understand your risk factors for the disease, such as genetics and family history, by reviewing these frequently asked questions.
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How Can I Be Sure That My Cancer Will Be Detected Before It Has Spread
While you cant prevent breast cancer altogether, there are certain things you can do to reduce your risk of discovering it at an advanced stage. For example:
- Get routine mammograms. The American Cancer Society recommends having a baseline mammogram at age 35, and a screening mammogram every year after age 40.
- Examine your breasts every month after age 20. Youll become familiar with the contours and feel of your breasts and will be more alert to changes.
- Have your breasts examined by a healthcare provider at least once every three years after age 20, and every year after age 40. Clinical breast exams can detect lumps that mammograms may not find.
Lobular Carcinoma In Situ
Lobular carcinoma in situ refers to an area of abnormal cells confined to the breasts milk-producing glands.
Because these cells do not spread to surrounding tissues, doctors do not lobular carcinoma situ to be cancer. However, it can increase the chances of developing other types of invasive breast cancer.
This condition rarely causes symptoms. Doctors lobular carcinoma in situ during a breast biopsy for another problem in the breast area. In some cases, tiny white specs of calcium called microcalcifications appear on a routine mammogram.
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What Are The Early Signs Of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer symptoms can vary for each person. Possible signs of breast cancer include:
- A change in the size, shape or contour of your breast.
- A mass or lump, which may feel as small as a pea.
- A lump or thickening in or near your breast or in your underarm that persists through your menstrual cycle.
- A change in the look or feel of your skin on your breast or nipple .
- Redness of your skin on your breast or nipple.
- An area thats distinctly different from any other area on either breast.
- A marble-like hardened area under your skin.
- A blood-stained or clear fluid discharge from your nipple.
Some people dont notice any signs of breast cancer at all. Thats why routine mammograms and are so important.
Risk Factors For Breast Cancer
There are several risk factors that increase your chances of getting breast cancer. However, having any of these doesnt mean you will definitely develop the disease.
Some risk factors cant be avoided, such as family history. You can change other risk factors, such as smoking. Risk factors for breast cancer include:
- Age. Your risk of developing breast cancer increases as you age. Most invasive breast cancers are found in women over 55 years old.
- Drinking alcohol. Alcohol use disorder raises your risk.
- Having dense breast tissue. Dense breast tissue makes mammograms hard to read. It also increases your risk of breast cancer.
- Gender. According to the
While there are risk factors you cant control, following a healthy lifestyle, getting regular screenings, and taking any preventive measures your doctor recommends can help lower your risk of developing breast cancer.
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Sudden Changes In The Size Of One Breast
“If one breast is starting to look smaller than the other or like it’s getting firmer, tighter and sitting higher than before, it could be a sign that cancer is growing diffusely through the breast,” explains Dr. Yoga. “Similar to how a breast mass growing under the skin causes a dimple or divot, diffuse growth pulls the entire skin of the breast inward.”
The opposite is also true. If one breast has become larger, heavier or fuller than the other, it can also be concerning.
“If a diffuse cancer is growing and blocks the lymphatics of the breast, lymph cannot drain and this fluid can build up and cause enlargement of the breast,” says Dr. Yoga.
In most women, one breast is almost always slightly larger than the other. This is natural and common.
But a sudden, persistent enlargement of one breast especially if you haven’t recently gained weight and you’re not pregnant may be a sign of breast cancer.
Grade Of Breast Cancer
The grade describes the appearance of the cancer cells.
- low grade the cells, although abnormal, appear to be growing slowly
- medium grade the cells look more abnormal than low-grade cells
- high grade the cells look even more abnormal and are more likely to grow quickly
Read further information:
Read further information about secondary breast cancer
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What Are Signs And Symptoms Of Lymphedema
Its important to know the signs and symptoms of lymphedema, so it can be recognized and treated right away.
Common signs and symptoms of lymphedema can include:
- Swelling in part of the body
- Skin feeling tight or hard, changing in texture, looking red, or feeling hot
- New aching, tingling, numbness, or other discomfort in the area. The area might also feel full or heavy.
- Less movement or flexibility in nearby joints
- Trouble fitting your arm into a jacket or sleeve, or trouble fitting into or buttoning your pants
- Collars, rings, watches, and/or bracelets feeling tight even though you havent gained weight
Lymphedema often develops in the arms or legs when surgery or other treatment affects those areas, but it can develop in other parts of the body, too.
- If lymphedema develops after breast cancer treatment, it can affect the breast, chest, and underarm, as well as the arm closest to the surgery.
- After cancer in the abdomen or pelvis has been treated, lymphedema may appear as swelling of the abdomen, genitals, or one or both legs.
- Treatment of tumors in the head and neck area might lead to lymphedema in the face and neck.
Further Tests For Breast Cancer
If a diagnosis of breast cancer is confirmed, more tests will be needed to determine the stage and grade of the cancer, and to work out the best method of treatment.
If your cancer was detected through the NHS Breast Screening Programme, you’ll have further tests in the screening centre before being referred for treatment.
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Unexplained Bleeding Or Blood
Unexplained bleeding can often be caused by something far less serious than cancer, but you should always report it to your doctor.
This includes blood in your poo or pee, and vomiting or coughing up blood – no matter how much or what colour .
It also includes any unexplained vaginal bleeding between periods, after sex or after the menopause.
How Can I Be Sure I Dont Have Cancer
What are some general signs and symptoms of cancer?Fatigue or extreme tiredness that doesnt get better with rest.Weight loss or gain of 10 pounds or more for no known reason.Eating problems such as not feeling hungry, trouble swallowing, belly pain, or nausea and vomiting.Swelling or lumps anywhere in the body.More items
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What Causes Breast Cancer
Breast cancer develops when abnormal cells in your breast divide and multiply. But experts dont know exactly what causes this process to begin in the first place.
However, research indicates that are several risk factors that may increase your chances of developing breast cancer. These include:
- Age. Being 55 or older increases your risk for breast cancer.
- Sex. Women are much more likely to develop breast cancer than men.
- Family history and genetics. If you have parents, siblings, children or other close relatives whove been diagnosed with breast cancer, youre more likely to develop the disease at some point in your life. About 5% to 10% of breast cancers are due to single abnormal genes that are passed down from parents to children, and that can be discovered by genetic testing.
- Smoking. Tobacco use has been linked to many different types of cancer, including breast cancer.
- Alcohol use. Research indicates that drinking alcohol can increase your risk for certain types of breast cancer.
- Obesity. Having obesity can increase your risk of breast cancer and breast cancer recurrence.
- Radiation exposure. If youve had prior radiation therapy especially to your head, neck or chest youre more likely to develop breast cancer.
- Hormone replacement therapy. People who use hormone replacement therapy have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
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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Breast Or Nipple Pain
Breast cancer can cause changes in skin cells that lead to feelings of pain, tenderness, and discomfort in the breast. If a lump is present, it is not painful.
Although breast cancer is often painless, it is important not to ignore any signs or symptoms that could be due to breast cancer.
may be a sign of breast cancer.
Although changes in the size of the breast can be a symptom of any type of breast cancer, the National Cancer Institute states that a rapid increase in breast size could be an indication of inflammatory breast cancer. This is a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer.
If someone notices that either or both of their breasts have increased in size, they should consider contacting a doctor.