15 Breast Cancer Signs and Symptoms

15 Breast Cancer Signs and Symptoms

By Chaunie Brusie,  Mom.com

Every year, October marks the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and every year, we think that we may have heard all there is to hear about breast cancer.

We might get accustomed to seeing the familiar pink ribbons, or participating in the 5Ks, or raising money for the various fundraisers, but it's more important than ever to never get complacent about breast cancer. The disease is the No. 1 most common cancer in all women, regardless of ethnicity. And 11% of breast cancer cases are found in women under the age of 45, so this is a cancer we should all be on the lookout for. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer that you need to be aware of.



Nipple Discharge

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any type of discharge that is not milk from the nipple can be a sign of breast cancer. This includes discharge that appears to look like pus, or is bloody.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation also notes that discharge is especially worrisome if it:
  • occurs only in one breast
  • occurs without squeezing the nipple
  • is clear (not milky)



A Lump in the Breast or Armpit

A lump is the classic sign of breast cancer that we are familiar with, but it can be difficult to know specifically what we need to keep in mind. The Susan G. Komen organization provides more specific detail about when a lump needs further evaluation:
  • If the lump is new for you (and keep in mind some lumps in your breasts are hormonal and may come and go with different times of the month).
  • If the lump feels different from the rest of your breast.
  • If the lump in one breast feels different from your other breast.
  • If the lump feels different from anything you have felt before.



Breast Rash

An itchy, scaly, or sore rash, or redness and swelling in any part of the breast can indicate breast cancer. And if this sounds like signs of mastitis, you're right. Women who are lactacting have reported a harder time getting diagnosed because breast cancer can be masked or overlooked.



An Inverted Nippl

If you notice that your nipple has suddenly become inverted, or any other part of your breast looks "indented," you will want to have a full breast examination, as sometimes breast cancer cells beneath the skin's surface can "pull down" the skin.



Breast Thickening or Swelling

One symptom of breast cancer that may be more difficult to identify compared to a bump is when the skin on one or both breasts becomes thickened and/or swells. This can also be accompanied by other symptoms, such as scaly skin, a rash, pain, or redness.



Puckering of the Skin

Similar to skin indenting or a nipple inverting, if you notice "puckering" of the skin on your breasts or dimpling in any area of the breast, it might also indicate that you need a full evaluation from your doctor.



Change in Breast Shape

Along with any thickening or swelling in your breast, if you notice that one breast changes shape, it might be a symptom of breast cancer. The change in shape could mean that your breast increases in size, decreases in size, or changes into anything that you haven't noticed before.



Breast Pain

The Susan G. Koman organization also lists breast pain that doesn't go away as a symptom of breast cancer. This can be acompanied by other symptoms, but the most important thing to note is if the pain changes at all, or is persisent.



No Symptoms at All

In some cases, there are no outward signs or symptoms of breast cancer. That's why it's very important for women to speak with their doctor about the right time to begin breast cancer screening.



When Is the Right Time to Begin Screening?

In general, it is recommended that women begin getting mammograms at age 50, but women who are at high risk for breast cancer should begin earlier.



Who Is at a Higher Risk?

Certain women may be at higher risk for breast cancer than others. This includes women who have:
  • a strong family history of breast cancer
  • a confirmed case of inherited changes in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes 


Know Your Risk Factors

Aside from women who are at high risk, there are also risk factors for breast cancer you should be aware of. The risk of breast cancer increases for women who:
  • are over the age of 50
  • started their periods before the age of 12
  • have dense breasts
  • have a family history of breast cancer, especially with a mother, sister, or daughter with the disease
  • women who have been treated with radiation 



How to Collect Your Family History

The CDC provides information on how to collect your family history to see if you might be at a higher risk for breast cancer. This includes checking to see if anyone in your close family has a history of certain medical conditions, such as Lynch syndrome.


How to Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk

While it's vitally important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer to help get a diagnosis faster if it does occur, you can also focus on ways to reduce your risk of breast cancer.

You can help reduce your risk by:
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • exercising on a regular basis
  • avoiding alcohol, or limiting alcohol to only one drink per day
  • talking to your doctor if you are on any form of hormones, such as replacement therapy or birth control pills
  • breastfeeding your children, if you can 


What You Should Know About Screening

Although it might seem like common sense that every woman should get screened for breast cancer, the CDC does explain that there are potential risks to universal screening.

For instance, some women may get false positives with mammograms, while others might be treated for conditions that could go away on their own. You should talk with your own doctor about the risks and benefits based on your risk factors and family history. 

see more at: Mom.com
15 Breast Cancer Signs and Symptoms

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