12 Breast Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Breast Cancer signs

Perhaps, a mass or a lump in the breast tissue is the most recognized symptom of breast cancer. However, women should also be aware of other changes to the nipple and breast and see a doctor as soon as possible. Diagnosing breast cancer early can increase the chances of successful treatment.

Here are the most common breast cancer signs and symptoms:

12 – Breast lump

Not all lumps are cancerous. Some can be normal lumpiness felt just before periods, cysts, or fibroadenoma, a collection of fibrous glandular tissues. However, if you can feel a persistent tumor in your breast, it could be a sign of cancer. Usually, the lump is tiny, soft, and might feel like a hard knot in the breast tissue.

Sometimes the lump cannot be felt until cancer develops in its later stage, which is why regular mammograms are advised to detect it at an early stage.

11 – Changes to the skin texture

Noticeable changes in breast skin appearance should be a concern since cancer can alter your skin texture. You might experience scaly skin around the areola or nipple as if it has been sunburned.

The skin might look like orange peel, become itchy, or start thickening in different parts of the breast.

10 – Nipple discharge

Nipple discharge can be due to breast infections, a side effect of birth control pills, or variations in body physiology. Even so, a discharge shouldn’t be ignored because any fluid seeping from the nipple of a woman who isn’t breastfeeding or pregnant can be another sign of cancer.

Medical studies show that 3-9% of women who saw a doctor for nipple discharge actually had cancer. Hence, if you see discharge that is yellow, clear, milky, resembling pus, or even bloody, seek medical services immediately.

9 – Breast discomfort and pain

Experiencing breast pain is a red flag for you to see your doctor. On their own, cancer cells will not cause pain, but as they grow, they will pressure or damage the surrounding tissue.

Hence, you might feel discomfort and pain as cancer develops and spreads within the breast. Also, the tumor can invade the skin triggering sores and abrasions or spread to the ribs and chest muscles, causing extreme pain.

8 – Inflammation or redness

Breast cancer might cause the skin of your breast to appear discolored or bruised. The skin can be purple, red, or have a bluish tint. So, if you have not experienced recent trauma to explain such changes, you ought to see your doctor.

Also, you should seek medical advice if the discoloration doesn’t disappear even if it was initiated by trauma. That is because cancer cells can block lymph vessels and cause the redness, inflammation, or a feel of soreness.

7 – Swelling

Typically, you cannot feel the lymph glands in the body. But, they can become swollen whenever you have an infection. As cancer progresses, it can affect the lymph nodes causing them to swell, block the normal fluid flow resulting in lymphedema.

That can make your breast appear bigger than its usual size. You may also experience swelling under the armpit of the affected arm.

6 – Dimpling

Skin dimpling can be a symptom of inflammatory breast cancer, an aggressive breast cancer type. Doctors usually refer to these skin changes as “peau d’orange” since the dimpled skin looks like the surface of an orange.

Cancer cells can create a lymph fluid buildup in the breast that results in dimpling or pitted skin.

5 – Nipple inversion or retraction

Breast cancer can alter the cells behind the nipple. The changes can result in the nipple turning in or sinking into the breast.

While nipple appearance is different during ovulation and other menstrual cycle days; you should see your doctor if it shows any new changes.

4 – Stomach upset, loss of appetite and weight loss

Any form of cancer can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and constipation. These symptoms usually set off a vicious cycle. You may start avoiding certain types of foods to try and stave off the digestive problems. Consequently, you will not be taking a healthy diet with the much-needed calcium and fiber.

Over time, you may lose your appetite and cause significant weight loss and nutritional balances that set off another string of issues such as stomach pain and discomfort. So, don’t just rely on over-the-counter to ease these symptoms, instead see your medical practitioner to alleviate the problem.

3 – Fatigue

According to a 2011 study, fatigue is a common symptom in people with cancer. Particularly with stage 4 cancer, fatigue can become prevalent and make your daily life more challenging.

That is because the changes in the body cause a general lethargic feeling that doesn’t go away even with rest and sleep.

2 – Insomnia

Insomnia is one of the most neglected signs of breast cancer. Nonetheless, cancer can lead to sleeping disorders. It can also make it difficult to stay asleep as you might be awakened by breast discomfort and pain- whether dull, shooting, aching, or stabbing pains.

All these are indications for you to seek professional medical advice.

1 – Shortness of breath

Experiencing generalized shortness of breath coupled with tightness in the chest can occur in stage 4 breast cancer patients. This will typically happen because of the size and positioning of the tumour within the breast or along the chest wall.

Sometimes, shortness of breath can mean that cancer has spread to the lungs and can often be accompanied by a dry, hacking cough, or wheezing.

The takeaway

You shouldn’t panic if you notice these breast and bodily changes. Aging, hormonal changes, injury, infections, the menstrual cycle can lead to such changes throughout your lifetime.

Nonetheless, you should be proactive about your health and visit your doctor to determine the cause of the symptoms. Medical tests can rule out infection or other potential causes as well as detect cancer early for better and effective treatment.

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