A Change In Your Breast May Be An Early Sign Of Breast Cancer Heres What To Look For
Breast cancer affects approximately one in eight women in their lifetime. But today, breast cancer is becoming more and more treatable especially when its caught early.
There are a few signs and symptoms to watch out for, says Mona Duncan, MD, general surgeon at Geisinger. Thats why its so important to go for your regular checkups and mammograms, and to perform monthly breast self-exams at home.Learn how to perform a breast self-exam.
Subtle Signs You May Have Breast Cancer
Finding a lump isn’t the only signal you need to be on the look out for.
When a woman is examining herself for breast cancer, there’s typically only one thing she’s on the lookout for: a lump. Unfortunately, that tell-tale sign is just one of the many that can lead to a diagnosis.
While a lump is still the most commonly-reported symptom, a 2016 study from Cancer Research UK found one in six women who are diagnosed with breast cancer report a totally different issue to their doctors. The problem is not everyone books an appointment as quickly as they should once something comes up. “These women are more likely to delay going to the doctor compared to women with breast lump alone,” says study author Monica Koo, PhD. “It’s crucial that women are aware that a lump is not the only symptom of breast cancer. If they’re worried about any breast symptoms, the best thing to do is to get it checked by a doctor as soon as possible.”
And according to 2020 data from Breastcancer.org, one in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime, which makes knowing all the signs of the disease all the more important. To make sure you catch a symptomas subtle as it may beas early as possible, take a look at these lesser-known signs you may have breast cancer. And for more potential problems you should be aware of as you age, check out 30 Health Issues Every Woman Over 30 Should Start Looking Out For.
Breast Cancer Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore
Most breast cancer symptoms are discovered by women during regular dailyactivities like bathing. Knowing how your breasts look and feel, andbeing alert for the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, like a lump,can help you detect the disease early, when it’s easiest to treat.
Most breast changes are due to hormonal cycles or conditions that are less worrying than breast cancer. However, if you experience any of the following breast cancer symptoms, even if they seem mild, see your doctor.
- A lump in the breast or armpit is the most common symptom of breast cancer. Patients often describe this as a ball or a nodule. Lumps may feel soft and rubbery or hard. Unless you have small breasts or the lump is very large, you probably wont be able to see it.
- Skin redness
- Nipple changes, including the nipple turning inward, pulling to one side or changing direction
- Ulcer on the breast or nipple
- Thickening of the skin, resulting in an orange-peel texture
Though rare, men can also get breast cancer. The most common symptoms of male breast cancer are a lump, discharge or dimpling.
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What Do Lumps In My Breast Mean
Many conditions can cause lumps in the breast, including cancer. But most breast lumps are caused by other medical conditions. The two most common causes of breast lumps are fibrocystic breast condition and cysts. Fibrocystic condition causes noncancerous changes in the breast that can make them lumpy, tender, and sore. Cysts are small fluid-filled sacs that can develop in the breast.
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A Change In The Breast Or Nipple Appearance
- Any unexplained change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling anywhere on the breast
- Unexplained swelling of the breast
- Unexplained shrinkage of the breast
- Recent asymmetry of the breasts. Although it is common for women to have one breast that is slightly larger than the other, if the onset of asymmetry is recent, it should be checked.
- Nipple that is turned slightly inward or inverted
- Skin of the breast, areola, or nipple that becomes scaly, red, or swollen or may have ridges or pitting resembling the skin of an orange
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Peeling Scaling Or Flaking Skin
Dont immediately be alarmed if you notice peeling, scaling, or flaking on your breasts or the skin around your nipples. This is a symptom of breast cancer, but it can also be a symptom of atopic dermatitis, eczema, or another skin condition.
After an exam, your doctor may run tests to rule out Pagets disease, which is a type of breast cancer affecting the nipples. It can also cause these symptoms.
Integrative Therapies For Metastatic Breast Cancer
You may find it beneficial to add integrative therapies to your treatment plan. There are many evidence-informed integrative modalities to boost the mind and body. Practices like gentle yoga, meditation, massage and music therapy may feel enjoyable and reduce stress and anxiety levels.
To help our patients maintain quality of life after a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, our team of breast cancer experts may offer supportive care services to help manage side effects of the disease and its treatments. These may include:
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Common Types Of Breast Cancer
Lobular carcinoma in situ
Lobular carcinoma in situ refers to an area of abnormal cells confined to the milk-producing glands of the breast in females.
Because these cells do not spread to surrounding tissues, experts do not consider lobular carcinoma in situ to be a true cancer. However, it can increase the chances of developing other types of breast cancer.
Invasive lobular carcinoma
This develops in the breasts lobules glands that can produce milk and invades nearby breast tissue.
In the early stages, invasive lobular carcinoma may not cause symptoms. Or, a person may experience:
- thickening or hardening of breast tissue, rather than a distinct lump
- an area of fullness or swelling in the breast
- a change in the texture of the breasts skin
- the nipple turning inward
Ductal carcinoma in situ
Ductal carcinoma in situ refers to an area of abnormal cells that are confined to one of the breasts milk ducts.
When a person receives this diagnosis, it means that the cells have not invaded surrounding breast tissue. However, having ductal carcinoma in situ can increase the risk of developing an invasive breast cancer later on.
This condition generally does not cause symptoms. Rarely, a person may notice a lump in the breast or some discharge from the nipple.
Invasive ductal carcinoma
People with this type of cancer may also experience:
Your Breast Is Changing Colors
Another symptom of inflammatory breast cancer is when your breast skin turns pink or reddish on more than half the breastsomething that can be hard to tell in those with darker skin tones. “Sometimes these changes in coloration can be difficult to find in African Americans and in obese patients with very large breasts,” Ricardo H. Alvarez, MD, leads the Breast Cancer Center Institute at Cancer Treatment Centers of America , said on the CTCA website. And for harmful habits you should be aware of, check out 30 Things You Had No Idea Could Cause Cancer.
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You Have Sore On Your Breast That Won’t Heal
Whether it’s on your breast or on your nipple, a sore that won’t seem to heal is something to pay close attention to. “It may be a sign of Paget’s disease of the breast, a rare form of breast cancer,” says Alvarez. “This disease originates in the nipple. It’s not usually invasive and is most commonly diagnosed in patients in their 70s and 80s.” And for warning signals of other types of serious conditions, check out These Are All of the Cancer Warning Signs Hiding in Plain Sight.
A Lump In Your Breast Or Underarm
A lump or a firm feeling in the breast is the most common sign of breast cancer, and it is often one of the first noticeable symptoms. Lumps/Nodes come in all shapes and sizes, and they can sometimes spread to the underarm. Performing self-breast examinations can make it easy to notice changes in your breasts however, some lumps may be too small to feel. This is why mammograms are NOT RECOMMENDED AS A REPLACEMENT for self-breast examinations. Most masses are generally visible on a mammogram long before you can see or feel them. Once an abnormal area is identified on the mammogram, further testing can follow.
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What Are The Signs That Breast Cancer Has Spread
Metastatic breast cancer is a secondary cancer the cancerous cells originate in breast tissue and then travel to other parts of the body. The most common areas of breast cancer metastasis are the bones, lungs and liver.
Following an initial breast cancer diagnosis, a patient will receive a personalized monitoring plan for metastatic reoccurrence from their care team. Depending on the specific parts of the body affected, the symptoms of metastatic breast cancer can vary.
Phase : Mild Discomforts
Breast cancer progression, like all cancers, begins with energy stagnation. At this stage, a patient may suffer from vague, intermittent discomforts: headaches, stomach aches, constipation, breast tenderness, and menstrual problems like bloating or cramps. They are often shrugged off by patient and practitioner alike as conditions to be toleratedthe price of being femaleand addressed with mild medications. These symptoms are actually early warning signs of energy stagnation and imbalances that can lead to more serious conditions.
Conventional medicine has no diagnostic framework for recognizing energy stagnation, so persistent discomforts are left untreated and continue to progress. Energy stagnation is an early-stage problem and is relatively easy to correct using acupuncture, herbs, and lifestyle changes.
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Are There Early Signs Of Breast Cancer
As with other types of cancer, breast cancer is most responsive to treatment when diagnosed in its early stages. Breast cancer does not usually cause symptoms in its early stages, but it may cause signs that every woman should be aware of.
The first thing you should know about the early signs of breast cancer is that they can vary from person to person, so something that could indicate breast cancer in one person may not be a sign of cancer in another. The signs and symptoms may also vary between the different types of breast cancer. Also, some people do not experience any signs of breast cancer when the condition is in its early stages.
Because breast cancer does not cause many physical symptoms in its early stages, mammograms are the number one way to detect the condition. Having a mammogram can also provide answers, so you dont have to guess about the significance of any signs or symptoms you may be experiencing.
What Are The 3 Early Signs Of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer affects approximately one in eight women in their lifetime. But today, breast cancer is becoming more and more treatable especially when its caught early.
There are a few signs and symptoms to watch out for, says Mona Duncan, MD, general surgeon at Geisinger. Thats why its so important to go for your regular checkups and mammograms, and to perform monthly breast self-exams at home.
Read Also: How To Cure Breast Cancer With Baking Soda
Black Women And Triple
Black women are two times more likely to be diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer than White and Hispanic women.
Triple-negative breast cancer is harder to treat and more likely to come back. Black women are also more likely to have larger tumors, requiring longer courses of treatment.
The effect of triple-negative breast cancer on Black women can be devastating. Its aggressive nature often does not provide Black women with enough time to adapt to their diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment regimens.
Triple-negative breast cancer is extremely lethal, with a five-year survival rate of 12% when diagnosed in late stage, compared to 91% when found early and localized. This underscores the importance of mammogram screening and early detection in Black communities.
The Breast Cancer Centers At Ctca
At the Breast Cancer Centers at each of our CTCA® hospitals, located across the nation, our cancer experts are devoted to a single missiontreating breast cancer patients with compassion and precision. Each patients care team is led by a medical oncologist and coordinated by a registered oncology nurse, who helps track the various appointments, follow up on tests and answer questions that come up along the way. Your care team also may include a breast surgeon, radiation oncologist, radiologist, pathologist and a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with advanced training in helping patients restore function and appearance. Fertility preservation and genetic testing are also available for qualifying patients who need them.
Our pathologists and oncologists are experienced and trained in tools designed to diagnose, stage and treat different types of breast cancer, from early-stage ductal carcinoma in situ to complex diseases such as triple-negative and inflammatory breast cancer. As part of our patient-centered care model, which is designed to help you keep strong during treatment, your multidisciplinary care team may recommend various evidence-informed supportive therapies, such as naturopathic support, psychosocial support, nutritional support, physical and occupational therapy and pain management. The entire team works together with a whole-person focus, which is at the heart of our centers dedication to personalized and comprehensive care.
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What To Do If You Spot A Possible Sign Of Breast Cancer
Dont panic. If you notice a change in your breast, it doesnt necessarily mean you have breast cancer. Some of these changes may be a result of benign, or non-cancerous, breast conditions, explains Dr. Duncan.
Still, if you notice any change at all, especially one occurring in only one breast, its a good idea to contact your doctor to get treatment started right away, if necessary.
Your Armpit Lymph Nodes Are Swollen
Most people are always looking for bumps in their breasts, but don’t forget to check your lymph nodes for swelling, too. “Many patients who end up diagnosed with breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes have no symptoms in the breast, no changes in the structure of the breast, but they come in for a consult because they feel something under their arm,” says Alvarez. “This may mean that cancer from the breast has traveled to the lymph nodes, and now there is lymph node invasion.”
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Breast And Nipple Changes
Most women undergo several changes in their breasts at different life stages. If you, however, notice any of the following, ensure you notify your medical provider promptly.
- Unusual breast pain, tenderness, and discomfort.
- Changes in size, texture and shape.
- Nipple discharge of different colors and textures, including blood.
- Nipple retraction
- Unusual changes in the appearance of the breast or nipple such as:
- skin dimpling/puckering
These symptoms could point to breast cancer or be symptoms of a less severe non-cancerous condition caused by other factors such as an infection or the use of some medications.
‘my Breast Looked A Little Pink’
In the shower one day, I noticed a pale pinkness on my breast just below my nipple area, which looked more like a mild sunburn than a rash. I knew something was off. I had my ob-gyn take a look, and he said he wasnt concerned at all because it was barely noticeable. He suggested my bra fit too snugly, and I needed to go shopping for new bras. So I did just that.
“Over time, that pink area hardened slightly and was sore to the touch. My ob-gyn again said he wasnt concerned. Eventually the pain increased behind my breast in my back. My ob-gyn said that breast cancer does not hurt, so I didnt need to worry about it. He ordered a mammogram to put my mind at ease. The mammogram and all other tests came back normal.
“Weeks went by and my lower back began to hurt. Eventually, after my GP suggested I had arthritis and I went to physical therapy. I went to see a breast specialist. He told me I had mastitis and gave me antibiotics. That didnt help. Back at the breast surgeon, he sent a picture of my breast to the top surgeon who ordered a diagnostic mammogram, which includes a sonogram and a biopsy. I was diagnosed with Stage IV inflammatory breast cancer in my breast, bones, and liver.
Jennifer Cordts, stay-at-home mom, Dallas
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