Breast Cancer Symptoms: What You Need To Know
Finding breast cancer early usually makes it easier to treat. Along with getting regular screening mammograms, being aware of how your breasts look and feel is an important part of early detection. Some breast cancer signs are detected best by mammogram. Other signs may be more eaily seen as changes in how the breasts look or feel.
It is important to know that not all changes in the breasts are cancer. Benign breast conditions are much more common than breast cancer. But it is important to let your health care team know about any changes in your breast so they can be looked into.
Below are some common breast symptoms that should be checked right away.
How To Look For Changes
Standing in front of a mirror, a person should look at the overall appearance of the breasts and nipples. Here are some questions to think about while doing so:
- Are they similar in size, shape, and height?
- Is one a different color than the other?
- Are there any visible skin lesions, marks, color changes, or moles?
- Are there any signs of swelling, lumpiness, pitting, or contour changes?
- Are the nipples facing outward or inward?
A person should run through this checklist twice: once with their arms at their sides and once with their arms above their head.
Breasts are rarely identical, but noticing changes can help detect a problem early. Having an idea of the usual size, shape, appearance, and feel of the breasts can help a person be aware of any changes.
What Will Happen At My Appointment
The doctor will ask questions about your health history. Theyll perform a breast exam to feel for lumps or other changes in the breast tissue and under your arms.
If theres fluid coming out of your nipple, the doctor may order blood tests to check hormone levels and collect a sample to check for abnormal cells.
They may also do a mammogram or ultrasound to see if the lump is solid or filled with fluid.
Your doctor may order a test called a biopsy. Theyll take a tiny sample of the lump with a needle or small cut and send it to a lab.
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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.
How Are Fibroadenomas Diagnosed And Treated
Your healthcare provider may diagnose this type of lump simply by feeling it. But, he or she will want to confirm the diagnosis with a mammogram or ultrasound and fine-needle aspiration. Sometimes, in very young women, the fibroadenoma is not removed. However, since sometimes these tumors enlarge with pregnancy and breastfeeding, your provider may suggest having it surgically removed.
While most fibroadenomas do not lead to cancer, there is a type of fibroadenoma that has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, particularly in women with a family history of the disease.
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When To Talk To A Doctor About Your Lumps
Diagnosing lumps and bumps on your own can be challenging. If you are worried about cancer or have a history of cancer in your family, talk to us about it and we will answer your question: when to worry about a lump under the skin?
- Firm/hard to the touch
- It doesnt move around, fixed to the tissue
- Not tender when touched
- Felt in the breast or groin region
- Grows steadily
- Uneven surface
- New lump
One of my patients, Calla, agreed to share her experience when she presented with a similar complaint.
Symptoms Of Angiosarcoma Of The Breast
Another rare form of breast cancer, angiosarcoma forms inside the lymph and blood vessels. Only a biopsy may definitively diagnose this type of cancer. Angiosarcoma can cause changes to the skin of your breast, such as the development of purple-colored nodules that resemble a bruise. These nodules, if bumped or scratched, may bleed. Over time, these discolored areas may expand, making your skin appear swollen in that area. You may or may not have breast lumps with angiosarcoma. If you also have lymphedema, which is swelling caused by a buildup of lymphatic fluid, angiosarcoma may occur in the affected arm. Cancer treatment sometimes damages the lymph vessels, which may lead to lymphedema.
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Benign Breast Lumps And Future Cancer Risk
- Women who had a history of benign breast disease are more likely to develop breast cancer than those who have never had any breast disease. According to a 2019 study in the International Journal of Cancer, benign breast disease increases the risk of developing breast cancer in the future, in addition to the risk that a woman may already have due to family history, personal breast cancer history, or a genetic mutation.
Are You Issuing Any Recommendations Regarding Mammogram Timing As It Relates To Getting A Vaccine
To lessen the need for more testing, the Society of Breast Imaging has set up some guidelines to help the patient and the providers. One option is for patients to have their screening mammogram before they have their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine so they can reduce the chances of this happening. If they have already received the COVID-19 vaccine, the recommendation is to finish that and get the screening mammogram four to six weeks afterward. When you get a mammogram, we now routinely ask if you have had a vaccine in the last three months, and we also ask on which side you received it. We put that in the notes for the mammogram report so the doctors have a higher suspicion that this is probably not anything concerning, but rather is secondary to the vaccine.
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A Lump In Your Breast
A lump or mass in the breast is the most common symptom of breast cancer. Lumps are often hard and painless, although some are painful. However, not all lumps are cancer. Benign breast conditions that can also cause lumps.
Still, its important to have your doctor check out any new lump or mass right away. If it does turn out to be cancer, the sooner its diagnosed the better.
Breast Lump While Nursing
If a person notices their breast is lumpy, tender, and warm while nursing they likely have mastitis.
Mastitis an infection that develops from a blocked milk duct. A doctor will treat the infection with antibiotics. To prevent mastitis from recurring, a person may need to try different nursing techniques.
If more lumps develop in the breast after the person takes antibiotics, they should speak to their doctor again. While only
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, people should perform breast self-exams at least once a month. The best time for females to do this is immediately after the end of a menstrual period.
A person can perform the following steps to perform a breast self-exam:
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What Will Happen After Treatment
Youll be glad when treatment is over. For years after treatment ends, you will see your cancer doctor. Be sure to go to all of these follow-up visits. You will have exams, blood tests, and maybe other tests to see if the cancer has come back.
At first, your visits may be every few months. Then, the longer youre cancer-free, the less often the visits are needed.
If you still have a breast , youll need to get a mammogram every year. Depending on your treatment, you might need other tests as well, such as yearly pelvic exams or bone density tests.
Having cancer and dealing with treatment can be hard, but it can also be a time to look at your life in new ways. You might be thinking about how to improve your health. Call us at 1-800-227-2345 or talk to your cancer care team to find out what you can do to feel better.
You cant change the fact that you have cancer. What you can change is how you live the rest of your life making healthy choices and feeling as well as you can.
Change In Size Shape Or Feel Of Your Breast
A cancer might cause your breast to look bigger or have a different shape than usual, it might feel different.
Many healthy women find that their breasts feel lumpy and tender just before their period.
It can help to be breast aware. This means getting to know the size, shape and feel of your breasts.
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Other Indications That It Might Be Cancer
You know that a lump may be a sign of breast cancer. But some types, like inflammatory breast cancer, dont usually cause a lump. So, its worth knowing other signs and symptoms of breast cancer, such as:
- swelling around your breast, armpit, or collarbone
- dimpling of your skin, which can resemble an orange peel
- red or discolored, dry, flaky, or thickening skin on your breast or nipple
- unusual nipple discharge, especially blood
- the nipple is turning inward
- any change in size or shape of a breast
If cancer has advanced beyond your breast, symptoms may include:
- unexplained weight loss
- shortness of breath
- bone pain
Symptoms in men are very much the same. Of course, having one or more symptoms doesnt mean you have breast cancer, but the only way to know for certain is to call a doctor as quickly as possible.
Breast cancer is most common in people who:
- are female
- with age, especially after 50
- have a personal or family history of breast cancer
- have their first period before 12 years old or menopause after 55 years old
- experience physical inactivity
common among premenopausal women. It can cause fibrous lumps and cysts. These lumps may increase in size and tenderness before your period and decrease after.
Breast cysts are fluid-filled sacs that are typically smooth and round. They may or may not feel tender. A milk retention cyst is called a galactocele.
Other benign breast lumps include:
What Is Sclerosing Adenosis
Sclerosing adenosis is excess growth of tissues in the breast’s lobules. This often causes breast pain. While these changes in the breast tissue are very small, they may show up on mammograms as calcifications and can make lumps. Usually a biopsy is needed to rule out cancer. In addition, because the condition can be mistaken for cancer, the lumps are usually removed through surgical biopsy.
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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.
What Do Benign Breast Lumps Look And Feel Like
The majority of lumps found in the breasts are not cancerous. If you find a lump, the best thing you can do is go to your doctor for guidance. As one MyBCTeam member shared, My doctor was wonderful in teaching me about discerning how a lump might feel as opposed to a cyst, scar tissue, or a fold in the implant. Have a talk with your doctor.
The following are other breast conditions that can cause noncancerous lumps:
- Sclerosing adenosis
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Common Causes Of Breast Lumps
Fibroadenomas. These are the most common benign lumps. If you push on them, they are solid, round, rubbery lumps that move freely. Theyre usually painless. Women between 20 and 30 get them most often. Theyre also more common in African-American women. Fibroadenomas can be surgically removed.
Fibrocystic changes. Changes in hormones during your menstrual cycles can create changes in your breasts. These are known as fibrocystic breast changes. You could get lumps in both breasts that increase in size and tenderness just before your period. You might have nipple discharge as well.
The lumps are milk ducts and tissues around them that have grown and widened to form cysts. These enlarge quickly in response to hormones released near your period. The lumps may be hard or rubbery and could feel like a single lump. Fibrocystic changes can also cause breast tissue to thicken.
These changes are often most noticeable during your 40s. Theyre the most common cause of benign breast lumps in women ages 35 to 50. Postmenopausal women are less likely to have these types of breast changes. Thats because they dont have monthly changes in hormones.
They dont require treatment, but your doctor may recommend ways to ease monthly tenderness.
Simple cysts. Simple cysts are fluid-filled sacs that usually affect both breasts. You could have one or many. They can vary in size. Their tenderness and size often change with your menstrual cycle.
Facts You Should Know About Breast Lumps In Women
- Breast lumps can be caused by infections, injuries, non-cancerous growths, and cancer.
- Breast cancer usually causes no pain in the breast. The symptoms of breast cancer include painless breast lumps, nipple discharge, and inflammation of the skin of the breast.
- The chances that a particular breast lump could be cancerous depends on many factors, including past medical history, physical examination, as well as genetic and other risk factors.
- The only way to be certain that a lump is not cancerous is to have a tissue sampling . There are several ways to do the biopsy. The treatment of a breast lump depends on its cause.
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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.
Cu Cancer Center Member Anosheh Afghahi Md Explains Whats Going On And How Doctors Are Dealing With The Problem
The COVID-19 vaccines are beginning to significantly slow the spread of the virus, but the Pfizer and Moderna and vaccines are having an unforeseen consequence for breast cancer doctors. The vaccines often cause swelling in the armpit or underarm that can mimic the lumps associated with breast cancer, causing some women undue concern.
Medical oncologist and University of Colorado Cancer Center member Anosheh Afghahi, MD, has encountered the problem in her own practice in the following discussion she explains what is happening and what providers are doing about it.
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