Breast cancer is a serious health concern for women. Its signs may vary among individuals, and in certain instances, the condition may develop to an advanced stage without any signs. However, recognizing the symptoms of breast cancer is crucial for early detection and timely treatment. Thus, here are a few early warning signs of breast cancer one must look out for, especially when one may be at risk for the condition.
A lump in the breast
One of the most commonly recognized warning signs of breast cancer is feeling a lump in the breasts. Typically painless, these lumps tend to be firm with irregular edges. This initial warning sign is more commonly associated with invasive breast cancers like invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma. Other types of breast cancers, such as metastatic breast cancer and papillary carcinoma, may also manifest with this warning sign. In rare instances, lumps in the breasts may also indicate inflammatory breast cancer.
Fluid discharge from the nipples
Unusual nipple discharge raises concerns and could signify underlying breast cancer. The discharge may be clear, yellow, or, in some instances, bloody. This concerning sign can be associated with various types of breast cancer, including invasive breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer, papillary carcinoma, Paget’s disease of the breast, or, rarely, ductal carcinoma in situ. Specifically, papillary carcinoma often involves a bloody discharge, while Paget’s disease commonly involves either a bloody or yellow discharge.
Change in the appearance of nipples
Another concerning sign of breast cancer is a change in the appearance of either one or both nipples. These changes may include retraction or an inward turn of the nipples, possibly indicating inflammatory breast cancer. Other changes include flaking of the nipples’ skin, which could be a sign of invasive breast cancer. Additionally, if the skin of the nipples turns red, scaly, or thickened, it may indicate invasive breast cancer or Paget’s disease of the breast, which is a rare form of breast cancer.
Change in the shape of the breasts
Noticeable changes in the size or shape of either one breast or both, over a short period of time, can also be an indicator of breast cancer. This sign is particularly associated with invasive breast cancers. The change in the breast size could also be due to swelling in the breasts, which may be indicative of inflammatory breast cancer. Another noticeable change could be sudden unexplained shrinkage of the breast. More commonly, these changes occur only in one breast, which may be noticeable due to asymmetry. It is important to note that such sudden and noticeable changes may also be related to hormonal factors, and may not necessarily indicate cancer. However, to be on the safer side, it is better to consult a healthcare professional upon noticing such changes.
Pain in the breast
While cancerous lumps in the breasts are typically painless, it is important to note that feeling tenderness or experiencing pain in the breasts can, at times, be a symptom of breast cancer. This discomfort may indicate either metastatic breast cancer or invasive breast cancer. However, it is crucial to understand that breast pain does not always signify the presence of cancer and should be evaluated by a doctor to determine the underlying cause.
Swelling or lump in the underarm
The presence of a lump or swelling in the underarm region or collarbones can also serve as a potential indicator of breast cancer. This particular sign may indicate either invasive breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer, or metastatic breast cancer. Again, it is essential to recognize that such swelling may not always be due to cancer, and could have another underlying issue. A prompt evaluation by a healthcare professional can help determine the real cause of the swelling.
Changes in the skin
Unexplained changes in the skin of the breasts and the nearby region may also be indicative of breast cancer. These changes may include redness, dimpling, or puckering of the skin of one or both breasts. In some cases, one may also experience irritation, itching, or a burning sensation on the skin. Changes such as redness or pitting of the skin, as well as skin irritation, can be indicative of invasive breast cancer. Additionally, itchy skin may also suggest metastatic breast cancer or Paget’s disease of the breast. However, for this sign too, it is crucial to understand that such skin changes may not definitively point to breast cancer and could be occurring due to skin conditions. Seeking guidance from a healthcare professional is essential for thorough assessment and accurate diagnosis.
The breast is warm to the touch
If one notices that their breast feels warm to touch, it may be an early warning sign of breast cancer. This particular sign may suggest the presence of either invasive breast cancer or inflammatory breast cancer. This warning sign is not particularly a common one; however, one must be prompt in seeking professional attention upon noticing it.
Things to note
It is important to understand that the presence of one of these signs does not indicate breast cancer. Only a thorough check-up and proper diagnosis by a healthcare professional can confirm the presence of cancer. That said, these signs make one aware of the possibility of breast cancer, so one does not ignore unexplained changes and seeks timely attention. In case one does notice some serious signs, such as lumps or usual nipple discharge, it is vital to consult a specialist right away. Additionally, going for regular check-ups and maintaining open communication with the doctors are vital for maintaining comprehensive breast health.