According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that 15% of all cancer deaths in women during 2009 will be from breast cancer. Self-breast exams and annual mammograms are essential for the early detection and successful treatment of breast cancer. Education about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer can mean the difference between a treatable case and one that has progressed to stages requiring treatment that is more aggressive. All women should know what the signs of breast cancer are and know to immediately contact their physician should they discover any of the symptoms of breast cancer.
Simply put, the most common symptoms of breast cancer are:
1. Lump in the breast tissue or thickening that feels different from the tissue around it. It is very important that women perform monthly breast exams to detect any lumps as soon as possible. The prognosis for breast cancer is better the earlier it is detected and often the first symptom a woman may notice is a lump in her breast. If you find a lump, do not panic because most are benign but you should schedule an appointment with your physician right away for a clinical breast exam.
2. Dimpling or other changes in the skin covering the breast. If you notice the skin on your breasts have changed in visual appearance this could be a sign of breast cancer. Dimpling may also be present – – think of the type of dimpling that you see from cellulite.
3. Redness or pitting of the skin over the breast. Pitting of the skin is like the covering of an orange with small pits. Redness or blotchy skin covering the breast can also be accompanied by pain.
4. Discharge from the nipple other than breast milk – especially bloody discharge. Discharge does not necessarily need to be bloody to be an issue. Any discharge from the nipple, other than breast milk, should be reported to your physician quickly. The discharge may be clear, yellow or even greenish in color.
5. Change in size or shape of the breast. Most women will notice this during a self-breast exam or while dressing because their bra will feel different. Breasts swell during certain times of the month due to hormones and your period; however, if you notice a severe change or one that is permanent this should be reported to your physician.
6. Inverted nipple. This is a nipple that is retracted into the breast instead of pointing out. If this condition develops, one that has not been since childbirth, this could be a sign of breast cancer.
7. Peeling or flaking of the nipple skin. If the area around your nipple begins to flake or peel, this could be a symptom of a rare form of breast cancer called Paget’s disease. Advanced stages of Paget’s disease involve burning and painful nipple skin as well as bloody discharge and possibly nipple retraction.
Sources: Mayo Clinic