“It is stage 1 breast cancer,” the doctor said. Shalini’s heart sank. She said, “But doctor, I self-examine my breasts every month, and I did not feel any lump. There was occasional pain, but I did not think it was serious.” Her doctor later made Shalini understand that the presence of a lump is not the only symptom of breast cancer, and there are various other signs that are associated with breast cancer that women need to be mindful of.
Just like Shalini, there are many among us who are unaware of the different symptoms of breast cancer. Many assume that breast cancer always causes a lump. This may also make them forgo annual mammography because they believe they will be able to feel any changes that might be alarming.
Breast cancer symptoms may vary from one woman to another. Again, there are some common symptoms and some uncommon ones. Through this article, we are trying to help you learn what is not normal for your breasts and what are the different symptoms of breast cancer that you need to pay attention to.
Common Symptoms of Breast Cancer
1. A Lump In or Near the Breast or Underarm
One of the first signs of breast cancer is the presence of a lump in the breast or underarm. This lump does not go away. In most cases, these lumps are hard, painless and have irregular edges. However, they can also be soft, painful, and round in shape, too.
Not all breast lumps are cancerous; nevertheless, when one is found, it is important to get tested.
2. Swelling in the Breast or Underarm
Breast cancer can cause swelling in the breast. The swelling may be seen in the entire breast or in one part of the breast. Swelling can make the breast feel tight and tender.
It is also important to pay attention to swelling in the region of the underarm and collarbone, as it could be a sign of breast cancer spreading to the nearby lymph nodes.
3. Dimpling or Puckering of Breast Skin
Dimpling or puckering refers to the indentation that forms when the arms are raised. It may not be visible when the arms are down. You may use a mirror to check for dimpling.
Dimpling is more commonly seen in the case of inflammatory breast cancer.
4. Change in the Breast Skin Colour and Texture
Breast cancer can trigger inflammation, which in turn can lead to some changes in the texture of the breast skin. The skin may feel scaly, flaky, and dry.
Discoloured skin is another sign that women need to pay attention to. Breast cancer may cause the skin to have red, pink, or brownish discolouration.
In some cases, skin irritations like itching, peeling, and burning sensations could also be associated with breast cancer.
5. Changes in the Nipple
Nipple inversion is another symptom of breast cancer. The nipple may look reversed inward into the breast.
Flaky skin and redness are other changes that women must be mindful of.
The appearance of the nipple can change throughout the menstrual cycle. However, it’s crucial to pay attention to any nipple changes and see a doctor when anything alarming is noticed.
6. Nipple Discharge
In some cases, breast cancer is associated with abnormal nipple discharge. The discharge may be of different colours, ranging from milky white to yellow, red, or green, and it may be thick or thin in consistency.
Nipple discharge is common in breast cancers that arise from the ducts.
Nipple discharge is not always a sign of cancer; nevertheless, it should not be ignored.
Less Common Symptoms of Breast Cancer
1. Breast Pain or Tenderness
Breast cancer does not usually cause pain. However, in some cases, women experience discomfort, pain, and tenderness in the breast. If this pain does not go away, it is important to see a doctor.
2. Warmth in the Skin
This is a rare symptom. It is often seen in women with inflammatory breast cancer. The skin may be unusually warm, and there will be discomfort and tenderness too.
3. Itching Sensation in Nipples
In rare cases, breast cancer can cause a dry and itchy sensation in the nipples. Itching in the nipple can be caused by a variety of factors, not just cancer. However, it should be checked to be safe and certain.
4. Soreness in the Armpit Region
Rarely, breast cancer can cause soreness or a tender sensation in the armpit region. If this soreness does not go away or gets worse, it is important to see a doctor.
5. Veiny Appearance of the Breast
A veiny appearance is a sign of blood vessel obstruction, which be caused due to the presence of a lump or by increased blood flow to the breast, which in turn indicates tumour growth.
This is a rare symptom. However, it needs prompt medical attention.
6. Symptoms That Are Not Even Related to Your Breast
If breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body, different symptoms that are not related to the breast are seen. Some of these symptoms include neck pain, back pain, and unexplained weight loss.
What to Do When You Have Breast Cancer Symptoms?
If you are experiencing the above-mentioned symptoms, do not panic. Visit your gynaecologist or your primary physician or the best cancer hospital near you to consult a cancer specialist and explain your concerns. You may be asked to undergo various tests; this is important for an accurate diagnosis.
Today, we have much better infrastructure and medical facilities to manage breast cancer, and a breast cancer diagnosis need not be feared like before.
Also, it is important to note that these symptoms can be caused due to other less severe breast conditions. In other words, not always do these symptoms point towards breast cancer. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware of the symptoms and promptly report them to your doctor as it helps in early detection and timely treatment.
Breast cancer is treated best when it is detected early, and for it to be detected early, it is essential for women to be aware of its early symptoms. Depending on the type of breast cancer, the symptoms may vary. Anything that is not normal with your breasts should be taken seriously and checked by a doctor.
When detected in early stages, breast cancer patients will have added advantages like breast conservation, a reduced need for complex treatments, and most importantly, a better quality of life after the treatment. Thus, it is crucial that women become familiar with the various signs and symptoms of breast cancer and seek medical attention when they notice anything concerning.