Nipple Discharge Or Changes
One of the most common locations of breast cancer is beneath the nipple. The presence of a cancerous lesion may cause changes in appearance and sensitivity of the nipple. Different texture, color and shape might occur. The nipple may also feel much more tender and have an unusual texture. Some women describe a lack of sensitivity within the nipple, especially during intimate relations.
The American Cancer Society mentions nipple pain, nipple retraction and redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple as possible signs of breast cancer.1 WebMD also mentions itching, a burning sensation, or ulceration in the nipple.3
A discharge of clear liquid, blood, or milk that doesnt happen during breast feeding might also be a sign of breast cancer. According to WebMD, unusual discharge from the nipple is usually caused by benign conditions, but may also indicate breast cancer in some cases, in which the discharge can be clear, bloody, or another color.3
This happens when a tumor forms in the milk duct on the nipple or behind it. When this happens the skin jostles to one side, allowing the tumor to cause irritation and inflammation that results in an unusual discharge from the nipple. Medical evaluation and followups are needed for early detection, but it is important to remember that many tumors are harmless.
Breast Cancer Screening Saves Lives
Screening tests can find breast cancer early, when the chances of survival are highest. Getting screened regularly means your doctor is likely to know sooner if theres a problem, so you can get effective treatment as early as possible. There are more than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. todaymore than any other group of cancer survivorslargely thanks to advances in screening and treatment.
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Can I Rely On Breast Self
Mammography can detect tumors before they can be felt, so screening is key for early detection. But when combined with regular medical care and appropriate guideline-recommended mammography, breast self-exams can help women know what is normal for them so they can report any changes to their healthcare provider.If you find a lump, schedule an appointment with your doctor, but dont panic 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous. For additional peace of mind, call your doctor whenever you have concerns.
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Specific Signs Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
This is a rare but aggressive type of cancer that can appear differently to other types.
- inversion of the nipple
- swollen lymph nodes in the collarbone or underarm area
Inflammatory breast cancer tends to occur at a younger age than other types of cancer. Doctors sometimes misdiagnose it because it can resemble an infection, trauma, or another problem.
The same warning signs that occur with cancer can also signify other benign conditions. It is therefore important to know how to recognize which signs might indicate the presence of cancer and which do not.
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.
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What Should I Do If I Find A Lump
DonÃ¢t panic. It could be many things other than cancer. But do check in with your doctorÃ¢s office if you notice any new breast changes, such as:
- An area that is different from any other area on either breast
- A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that lasts through your menstrual cycle
- A change in the size, shape, or contour of the breast
- A mass or lump
- A marble-like area under the skin
- A change in the feel or appearance of the skin on the breast or nipple
- Bloody or clear fluid discharge from the nipples
- Redness of the skin on the breast or nipple
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
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What Changes Am I Looking For
Always consult a doctor if you notice any of the following changes:
- A new lump, bumpy area, swelling or thickening in one breast or armpit thats different to the same area on the other side
- A change in the size, outline or shape of your breast
- A change in the look or feel of your skin, such as puckering or dimpling
- Nipple discharge
- Bleeding from your nipple
- A rash or redness on or around the nipple area or a sore that doesnt heal
- Any change in the position of the nipple eg: becomes inverted, or is pointing differently
- Any new discomfort or pain in the breast
Checking your breasts for lumps monthly will help you to become aware of how they look and feel, says Dr Rosen. Its perfectly normal, for example, to have one breast thats slightly bigger than the other. Most women have slightly asymmetrical breasts. What youre looking for is anything thats not normal for you. This means any changes and symptoms that werent there before.
How Does Cancer Start In The Breast
To understand how cancer can originate, it can be helpful to understand how regular cells and tissues function and develop.
Healthy cells are the basic building blocks of all tissues and organs in the body. The body is constantly making new cells to replace worn out tissue or to heal injuries. Normal cells are programmed to grow and divide in an orderly and controlled manner, so that each new cell replaces ones that are lost.
Sometimes cells become abnormal and keep growing. As they grow, they can form a mass or lump called a tumour. However, not all tumours are cancer. Some tumours are benign , which means they tend to grow slowly and usually do not invade surrounding tissue or other parts of the body. Tumours that are malignant have the potential to invade and spread to other parts of the body.
Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow abnormally. These cells have the potential to grow out of control and invade the surrounding tissue. When this occurs, this is called invasive breast cancer. If the cancer cells continue to grow, they may spread beyond the breast to other parts of body, which could become life-threatening.
There are different types of breast conditions which are named after the areas of the breast where they start:
Non-invasive breast conditions
Invasive breast cancers
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How To Check Your Breasts
Theres no special way to check your breasts and you do not need any training.
Checking your breasts is as easy as TLC:
- Touch your breasts: can you feel anything new or unusual?
- Look for changes: does anything look different to you?
- Check any new or unusual changes with a GP
Everyone will have their own way of touching and looking for changes.
Get used to checking regularly and be aware of anything thats new or different for you.
Check your whole breast area, including up to your collarbone and armpits.
When Should You See A Doctor
If you are experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, do not delay. Visit a specialist immediately. Do not forget to check your breasts once every month, preferably a week after your menstruation is over. Go for regular screening tests and mammograms at least once a year after you turn 40.
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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.
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.
Can Breast Cancer Be Prevented
Unfortunately, there isnt a way to prevent breast cancer completely. However, lifestyle choices such as maintaining a healthy weight and lowering alcohol consumption can help to reduce your risk of breast cancer.
If you are at high risk of developing breast cancer, your doctor may suggest hormone treatments , or a pre-emptive mastectomy.
Lymphatic And Vascular System
lymphatic and vascular network inside the breast. The vascular system consists of blood vessels, and the lymphatic system consists of lymph channels.
These two systems work together to carry blood and fluid to and from the breast tissue to the rest of the body.
If breast cancer enters these systems, it can travel throughout the body, increasing the chance of it spreading or coming back.
Lymph nodes are clusters of bean-shaped cells present throughout the lymphatic system. These are immune cells that act as filters. They are the first place breast cancer is likely to spread.
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What Is Usually The First Sign Of Breast Cancer
The common signs of breast cancer include:
- A lump in the breast or in the armpits is often the first sign of breast cancer. This may be felt while in the shower. There may or may not be changes in the structure of the breast. Axillary swelling may indicate that cancer from the breast has traveled to the lymph nodes, and now there may be a lymph node invasion.
Apart from above signs below are few other sign and symptoms:
- Changes in the nipple area, nipple retraction and inverted nipple are common warning signs of breast cancer
- Bleeding from the nipple may be limited and difficult to see, but if an individual notices blood stains on the bra, or if the secretions are unusual, bloody or continuous, they may need urgent medical attention.
- Change in color and/or thickening of skin on the breast that resembles an orange rind is a warning sign of breast cancer. If the breast skin changes color, typically to a pink or reddish hue that covers more than half the breast that may also be a warning sign.
- A non-healing sore anywhere on the breast, including the nipple with or without bleeding may be a warning sign of breast cancer
- Increased warmth in the breast with change in size and appearance of breast is a sign of breast cancer.
Whats The Outlook For Inflammatory Breast Cancer
This type of cancer is aggressive and is likely to have spread by the time itÃ¢s discovered. ItÃ¢s also more likely to come back than other types. Still, every case of cancer is unique. Your outlook depends on many things, like your overall health, the stage at which you were diagnosed, the treatment you got, and how your body responded to it.
According to the National Cancer InstituteÃ¢s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database, survival rates for inflammatory breast cancer by stage at diagnosis are:
- Stage III: About 57 months
- Stage IV: About 21 months
ItÃ¢s important to keep in mind that these numbers are based on people who were diagnosed years ago. Better treatments available now mean people getting diagnosed and treated today have a longer life expectancy.
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Inflammatory Breast Cancer: The Diagnosis
So, frequently in the diagnosis of IBC a PET scan is utilized.
Furthermore, larger sample excisional biopsies are often necessary. A skin biopsy can find evidence of invasive breast cancer cells, but this is not always the case.
Inflammatory breast cancer has a tendency to grow in layers, so it may be quite a while before a palpable lump actually appears. Furthermore, if a lump develops it might appear quite suddenly.
Around 30% of inflammatory breast cancers never develop an actual breast lump.
Recent studies have pointed to the potential advantages of new diagnostic techniques, such as fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography .
Types Of Breast Cancer:
In many cases, the subtype of breast cancer cant be identified until imaging and a biopsy are done, but these are the main types to be aware of:
Ductal just means that it started in the milk ducts, says , a breast medical oncologist at Cedars-Sinai Tower Hematology Oncology in Beverly Hills, California. Ductal carcinoma can present in a variety of ways so there aren’t really specific signs to watch for. In the beginning, it’s considered non-invasive, but as soon as the cancer leaves the ducts, it becomes invasive. While ductal cancer is the most common type of breast cancer, there are many rare subtypes under the ductal umbrella, including medullary breast cancer and mucinous breast cancer.
Lobular cancer means that it started in the lobules, which form the milk, says Dr. El-Masry. This subtype tends to result in a thickening of the skin rather than a lump, according to El-Ashry but of course, everyones body is different. If the cancer spreads beyond the lobules, thats when its considered to be invasive.
Breast sarcomas are very rare, but they originate in the connective tissue of the breast rather than the ducts or lobules. Two subtypes of breast sarcomas include angiosarcoma and phyllodes tumor.
Inflammatory breast cancer
Pagets disease of the breast
Recurrent breast cancer
Hormone-fueled breast cancer
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When To Euthanize A Dog With Breast Cancer
Putting a beloved pet to sleep is never easy but must be considered once mammary cancer has spread or progressed too far.
If your pet shows any of the following signs, you may need to discuss possible euthanization with your veterinarian:
- Refusal to eat for extended periods
- Continual vomiting or diarrhea
- Difficulty moving
If you notice any drastic negative change in your dogs behavior, monitor them carefully and consult your vet to discuss your options.
When To Consider Joining A Clinical Trial
If youre newly diagnosed with IBC, consider joining a clinical trial before starting treatment. For most people, treatment doesnt usually start right after youve been diagnosed. So, theres time to look for a clinical trial.
Once youve begun treatment for IBC, it can be hard to join a clinical trial.
Susan G. KomenÂ® Breast Care Helpline
If you or a loved one needs information or resources about clinical trials, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN or email .
The Helpline offers breast cancer clinical trial education and support, such as:
Learn more about clinical trials.
*Please note, the information provided within Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the date of posting. Therefore, some information may be out of date.
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