About The Medical Reviewer
Dr. Overmoyer launched the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program at DF/BWCC in 2009, where she continues to serve as the principal investigator of many IBC research programs and clinical trials. She began her oncology career in 1989 at the University of Pennsylvania, where she trained in breast cancer and also participated in a major study in inflammatory breast cancer. She went on to develop the breast cancer program at the Cleveland Clinic and later developed two National Cancer Institute-sponsored studies on angiogenesis inhibitors and inflammatory breast cancer.
Coping With Breast Pain
Breast pain can be very distressing, and many women worry that they may have breast cancer. In most cases breast pain will be the result of normal changes in the breasts.;
Even though you may feel reassured that your breast pain is normal and you dont have breast cancer, the pain often remains. This can be upsetting, especially if your specialist cant tell you the exact cause of your breast pain.;
Women affected by breast pain may feel many different emotions, including fear, frustration or helplessness. Although understanding more about your breast pain wont cure it, it may help you to get back some control over your life.;
Having severe, long-lasting breast pain can sometimes affect a womans daily activities which may cause anxiety and, for some, depression. However, this isnt the case for most women and their pain can be helped or managed.
Having breast pain doesnt increase your risk of breast cancer. However, its still important to be breast aware and go back to your GP if the pain increases or changes, or you notice any other changes in your breasts.;
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.
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Are You Having Breast Cancer Pain
How often does breast cancer cause breast pain? If you have breast pain, what are the chances it’s cancer?;What types of breast cancers are more likely to be painful? Since breast pain affects roughly half of all women at some point in our lives, these are important questions to be asking.
Learn about about how often breast cancer is painful , and whether pain may increase your risk of breast cancer in the future.
Why Do My Breasts Hurt
Breast pain is very common in women of all ages.
Having painful, sore or tender breasts can cause a lot of anxiety. But on its own, pain in the breasts isnt usually a sign of breast cancer.;
Many women experience breast pain as part of their normal menstrual cycle . This is called cyclical breast pain.
Lasting pain in the breast thats not related to periods is known as non-cyclical breast pain.
Sometimes pain that feels as though its in the breast is coming from somewhere else, such as a pulled muscle in the chest. This is known as chest wall pain.;
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How Common Are Painful Skin Cancer Lesions
A study;completed at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in 2010 and 2011, found that of 268 patients who had confirmed skin cancer lesions, more than 1/3 reported itchiness and approximately 30 percent reported them as being painful.
Painful lesions were also found to be more likely in non-melanoma skin cancer lesions than in melanoma lesions. Pain prevalence was reported as greatest in squamous cell carcinoma at 42.5%, with pain prevalence in basal cell carcinoma at 19.9% and only 3.7% in melanoma.
In another study;published in the Archives of Dermatology, the prevalence of pain in squamous cell carcinoma was found to be 39.8% and 17.7% in basal cell carcinoma.
So while these numbers may not represent the majority of lesions, they nevertheless show that there is a significant chance that skin cancer lesions will be painful.
Myth : Doctors Can Tell If A Lump Is Cancer Just By Feeling It
Wrong. Neither you nor your healthcare provider no matter how good he or she is can tell whether a lump is cancer without diagnostic imaging.
Providers who say, Its probably OK, without investigating further may cause a delay in diagnosing breast cancer, Dr. Pederson says. Dont let your doctor guess. Get imaging.
Women age 30 and older will have a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. An ultrasound helps evaluate a mass by assessing whether it is solid or fluid-filled. Women under age 30 will have only an ultrasound because younger, denser breasts are difficult to evaluate by mammogram.
Suspicious lumps should be biopsied. Typically, a sample of tissue is drawn through a needle. Then the tissue is studied under a microscope.
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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. Although breast cancer is often painless, it is important not to ignore any signs or symptoms that could be due to breast cancer.
Some people may describe the pain as a burning sensation.
Why Am I Experiencing Sexual Side Effects With Breast Cancer
They may be treatment side effects. Many of the treatments that we use for breast cancer put women into menopause or intensify menopausal symptoms if theyve already gone through it, says Sharon Bober, PhD, director of the Sexual Health Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Thats because these treatments block estrogen, resulting in:
- Vaginal dryness
- Dampened enjoyment
- Pain during sex
If youre experiencing sexual side effects that are interfering with intimacy, communicate openly with your partner. If youve never had to talk about your sex life before, you may not be sure how to start the conversation. Take your time and say to your partner, I know things arent the way that they used to be. Can we find some time to talk about it? Bober says.
Figure out what challenges you want to work on, and look at them from a whole-body perspective, she says.
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Does Breast Pain Increase The Risk Of Breast Cancer
Though it’s uncommon, there are some painful breast conditions which may raise your risk. Both radial scars;and multiple or complex fibroadenomas increase your risk of breast cancer Many breast conditions which cause pain confer only a minimally increased risk of breast cancer, such as ductal ectasia, fat necrosis, a breast abscess, simple fibroadenomas, and others.
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.
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You Could Have Inflammatory Breast Cancer
This is one of the few times breast cancer may actually involve pain. Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and aggressive form of the disease that accounts for about 1% to 5% of all breast cancers.
In people with inflammatory breast cancer, the cancer cells obstruct the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast, causing redness, swelling, and inflammation over about a third of the breast. The skin may also look pitted due to the buildup of lymph fluid. Sometimes you might feel a lump, but usually not.
Inflammatory breast cancer is more common in younger women, African-American women, and obese womenand its usually treated with surgery, chemo, and/or radiation. Targeted therapies are also sometimes used.
Many of these symptoms could also be from an infection or injury. Dont panic, but do get checked out.
How Is Breast Pain In Women Diagnosed
Your doctor will examine you, ask you to describe your pain, and the location of the pain. He or she may ask you about your health history. During the exam, your doctor will check to see if you have lumps in your breasts.
If youre younger than 30 and dont have a breast lump, your doctor might decide you dont need any tests. If youre older than 30 and dont have a breast lump, your doctor may still want you to get a mammogram and an ultrasound, if youre having pain in a specific area. If you do have a lump in your breast, your doctor might decide you need one or more of these tests:
- A mammogram.This is a special X-ray of the breasts.
- A breast ultrasound.This painless test uses sound waves to make a picture of the lump.
- A breast biopsy.;For this test, some tissue is surgically removed from your breast and looked at under a microscope. The area that is removed is numbed to eliminate pain. Its an outpatient procedure.
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Symptoms If Cancer Has Spread To The Lymph Nodes
Lymph nodes are part of a system of tubes and glands in the body that filters body fluids and fights infection.;
The most common symptom if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes is that they feel hard or swollen. You might have any of the following symptoms if your cancer has spread to the lymph nodes:
- a lump or swelling under your armpit
- swelling in your arm or hand
- a lump or swelling in your breast bone or collar bone area
One of the first places breast cancer can spread to is the lymph nodes under the arm on the same side as the breast cancer. This is not a secondary cancer.;
Symptoms If Cancer Has Spread To The Bones
You may have any of these symptoms if your cancer has spread to the bones:
- an ache or pain in the affected bone
- breaks in the bones because they are weaker
- breathlessness, looking pale, bruising and bleeding due to low levels of blood cells – blood cells are made in the bone marrow and can be crowded out by the cancer cells
Sometimes when bones are damaged by advanced cancer, the bones release calcium into the blood. This is called hypercalcaemia and can cause various symptoms such as:
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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.;
Melanoma Signs And Symptoms
Melanoma skin cancer is much more serious than basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. It can spread quickly to other organs and causes the vast majority of skin cancer deaths in the United States. Usually melanomas develop in or around an existing mole.
Signs and symptoms of melanoma vary depending on the exact type and may include:
- A flat or slightly raised, discolored patch with irregular borders and possible areas of tan, brown, black, red, blue or white
- A firm bump, often black but occasionally blue, gray, white, brown, tan, red or your usual skin tone
- A flat or slightly raised mottled tan, brown or dark brown discoloration
- A black or brown discoloration, usually under the nails, on the palms or on the soles of the feet
See more pictures and get details about different types of melanoma in our dedicated melanoma section.
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Getting A Breast Biopsy
In a breast;biopsy, the doctor takes out small pieces of breast tissue to check them for cancer cells. A biopsy is the only way to tell for sure if you have breast cancer.
There are many types of biopsies. Ask your doctor what kind you will need. Each type has risks and benefits. The choice of which type to use depends on your own case.
Sometimes, surgery is needed to take out all or part of the lump to find out if its cancer. This is often done in a hospital using local anesthesia . You might also be given medicine to make you sleepy.
Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer
The warning signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women.
The most common signs are:
- A change in the look or feel of the breast OR
- A change in the look or feel of the nipple OR
- Nipple discharge
If you have any of the warning signs described below, see a health care provider .
If you dont have a provider, one of the best ways to find a good one is to get a referral from a trusted family member or friend.
If thats not an option, call your health department, a clinic or a nearby hospital. If you have insurance, your insurance company may also have a list of providers in your area.
Learn more;about finding a health care provider.;
In most cases, these changes are not cancer.
One example is breast pain. Pain is more common with benign breast conditions than with breast cancer, but the only way to know for sure is to get it checked.
If the change turns out to be breast cancer, its best to find it at an early stage, when the chances of survival are highest.
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Myth : Breast Cancer Doesnt Cause Pain
Thats not entirely true. Fast-growing breast cancers can be painful. Breast pain in one particular spot, especially in older women, is a warning sign.
Most women experience general breast pain or soreness that comes and goes, Dr. Pederson says. Thats not a sign of cancer, but usually due to hormone fluctuations or too much caffeine.
Skin Cancer Of The Head And Neck Treatment
Many early-stage small basal cell cancers or squamous cell cancers can be removed by Mohs surgery, a technique that spares normal tissue through repeated intraoperative margin testing, removing only the cancer and leaving adjacent normal tissue. Tumors with nerve involvement, lymph node involvement or of a large size are not suitable for Mohs surgery. They require a multimodality approach to treatment, with formal surgical resection and adjuvant radiation or chemotherapy.
Melanoma is more likely to spread, and aggressive surgical resection with wide margins is required, in addition to radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Cancer Surgery
Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Cancer Surgery provides comprehensive surgical care and treatment for head and neck cancers. Our surgeons are at the leading edge of head and neck cancer treatment. You will benefit from the skilled care of head and neck surgeons, guiding clinical advancements in the field of head and neck cancer care.
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What To Do If You Notice Skin Changes
If you notice anything unusual on your skin, make an appointment to show it to your GP. It might help to take a photograph of anything unusual, so you can check for any changes. Remember there are many other skin conditions that are not cancer, especially in older people.
It can be more difficult to notice changes if you have darker skin. This is because symptoms of skin cancer may be less obvious than in people with paler skin. If you notice any changes, such as a sore that does not heal, always see your GP.
Macmillan is here to support you. If you would like to talk, you can:
Does Breast Pain Indicate Breast Cancer
While breast pain can indicate breast cancer, it is not a common symptom of breast cancer. However, pain with other symptoms like nipple discharge, lumps, thickening of the skin, change in size or shape, or changes in texture or appearance of the skin should be evaluated by your primary care physician as they could indicate cancer or other, benign problems.
If you experience any of these symptoms, including breast pain, contact your primary care physician.
Of course, breast cancer doesnt always show symptoms. Its possible for a woman to have breast cancer without even knowing it. Thats why screening is so important in preventing breast cancer. The Breast Center recommends annual screening mammograms starting at age 40.
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