Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women aging between 20 and 60 years. It can be easily treated and cured when detected in early stages. Therefore, understanding the warning signs of breast cancer can be of great help.
The warning signs of breast cancer are not same for all the women. The common signs include a change in the look or feel of the breast or nipple and nipple discharge. Other signs include:
A lump in the breast or armpit
Most of the women may find that their breasts feel lumpy because breast tissue often has a lumpy texture. But, if you feel a hard and immovable lump under the armpit or breast region, then you should see your doctor straight away. It is a sign of breast cancer. The presence of a lump in the breast or armpit is the first symptom of breast cancer in many women.
Pain in the breasts or chest
Pain and discomfort in the breast or chest area is a common symptom for many health conditions. But if you experience a sharp and severe pain that comes and goes, and if you feel a mild electric sensation that goes from left to right breast, then it may be due to breast cancer!
This symptom is associated with inflammatory breast cancer. Most of the women take the itchy breast as a dermatological problem and apply creams and ointments. But, you should remember that if the problem persists, you should meet the doctor immediately as it is a warning sign of breast cancer.
Upper back, shoulder and neck pain
Are you suffering from neck, back and shoulder pain regularly? If yes, then you should be alert. Because, in some women breast cancer is felt in the neck, back, and shoulders rather than in the chest or breast. For this reason, specialists check for the presence of tumors while treating chronic back pain that is unrelieved by physical therapy.
Changes in breast shape, size or appearance
Remember that not all the breast tumors cause a hard lump close enough to the surface to be noticeable. Instead, in some women, the shape and appearance of the breasts may change. Unexplained swelling or shrinkage of the breast only on one side, asymmetry of the breast, a sudden change in shape of the breast (oval) are some of the symptoms you should not ignore. They are the possible signs of breast cancer.
Changes in nipple appearance or sensitivity
One of the most common locations for a breast cancer tumor is just beneath the nipple, and it may cause a change in the appearance (inverted, flattened or indented) and feel of the nipple itself. Some women may also experience a decrease in nipple sensitivity.
Nipple (milky, bloody, watery) discharge that starts suddenly should also be taken on a serious note, as it a warning sign of breast cancer. Nipple discharge can also be caused by an infection or any other health condition that requires immediate treatment. Therefore, if you have these changes, go and meet the doctor immediately.
Nipple change is a direct give away for men with breast cancer
Red, swollen breasts
When your breasts hurt, you may assume it as typical soreness of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and when your breasts feel hot or look reddened, you may suspect it as some infection. But do remember! These are possible signs of breast cancer.
Everyone’s breasts are different and change with age. You should know how your breasts normally look and feel to make it easier to determine the unusual changes in the breasts.
In most of the cases, the symptoms may not indicate cancer. For example, breast pain is more common in benign breast conditions. The only way to conclude that you have breast cancer is through diagnostic tests. However, it is very important to know the warning sign as it is best to detect cancer at early stages, where the survival rate is high.
Rebecca L, et.al. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. CA Cancer J Clin 2016; 7–30. 2015.