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Breast Cancer Signs & Symptoms

Prior to diagnosis, many breast cancer patients do not experience any symptoms of their illness.  Although a physiological change such as a lump in the breast may be present, it may be too small to produce any signs or for women to feel on their own.  Often breast cancer is not detected until the tumor grows and causes noticeable warning signs of disease, or it is discovered via routine x-rays of the breast known as mammograms.

It is important to perform regular self-breast examinations and look out for any changes in the breast.  Even abnormalities in the breast that are not painful can be signs of breast cancer, so any irregularity should be reported to your doctor.  In fact, a lump in the breast that is painless and has soft edges is more likely to be cancerous than one that causes pain and has sharper edges.

The following are symptoms of breast cancer:

  • Entire breast swollen
  • Swelling of part of the breast
  • Skin irritation or dimpling on the breast
  • Breast pain
  • Nipple pain
  • Nipple turning inward
  • Nipple discharge (not breast milk)
  • Bleeding out of the nipples
  • Lump in the breast
  • Lump in the underarm area
  • Change in the size of the breast
  • Change in the shape of the breast
  • Redness
  • Scaly skin
  • Thickening of the nipple or breast skin

Many symptoms of breast cancer are also symptoms of other breast disorders, such as a cyst or infection, and diagnostic testing can determine the proper identification.  Usually these signs do not indicate cancer.  However, it is important to be seen by your doctor upon experiencing any symptoms.  Sometimes women feel their breast or nipple skin feeling thicker than normal; this is a symptom that may seem negligible but may in actuality be a sign of cancer and should be reported to your doctor.

Every woman’s breast composition is unique.  Many women find that their breasts feel lumpy when they perform self-breast examinations.  Since breast tissue has a naturally lumpy feel, usually this is not an indication of breast cancer.  If both breasts feel lumpy, and if the entire breasts have the same texture, there is no need to get anxious about breast cancer.  A warning sign of cancer is a lump that feels new and different than the rest of the breast.

Even if you do not experience any breast symptoms, it is important to have routine check ups as often as your doctor deems necessary (opinions vary in the medical arena as to whether women in their twenties require breast exams and when mammograms should begin being performed).  If you think you may have breast cancer, or a breast infection or cyst, contact your health care provider and schedule a breast exam.  The earlier breast cancer is detected the more of a chance that it could be treated and its progression halted.