SYMPTOMS OF BREAST CANCER
Written by : Dr.M.D.Mazumdar, MD
Breast cancer symptoms may vary from woman to woman. When the disease first develops, there may be no symptoms at all. But in time, various symptoms suggestive of breast cancer may be noticed.
Sometimes, symptoms that are similar to those of breast cancer may be the result of a simple condition like an infection or a cyst. An accurate diagnosis of breast cancer can be made only with a biopsy.
- No Symptoms: In early stages of breast cancer, there may be no symptoms at all. In most woman, it is usually first diagnosed in a routine mammography. Unless the lump is very large, it may be missed on routine examination of the breasts. So, a mammogram is a must in all women over the age of 40 years.
- Lumps in the breast: A lump or a mass in the breast is the commonest symptom of a breast cancer. The lump is usually painless, has irregular borders and is firm to hard to the touch. But in in conditions like Lobular Carcinoma in situ (LCIS ), there may be no definite lump, just a thickening of the tissues of the breast.
- Nipple discharge: A nipple discharge, other than breast milk, can indicate breast cancer. In most cases, the nipple discharge is bloodstained or rust colored. But in some case, it may be greenish, yellowish or even, clear.
- Changes in the Look or Feel of the Breast: There may be changes in the size or shape of the breast. All or part of the breast may be swollen. The skin of the breast, areola, or nipple may be scaly, red, or swollen. It may have ridges or pitting so that it looks like the skin of an orange (called 'peau de orange'). Dimpling of the skin may be present. Inflammatory breast cancer can start with pain and enlargment of the breast rather than a lump.
- Changes in the Look or Feel of the Nipple: A change in the appearance or any change in the sensation of the nipple may suggest breast cancer. If the nipple turns in or gets retracted into the breast or sinks into the breast, if it gets an irregular shape, if there is redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or if the nipple starts to itch or pain, it is better to consult your doctor to be checked out for a type of breast cancer knonw as Paget's Disease of the Nipple.
- Lump in the Armpit or Neck: A lump or mass may be felt in the armpit. This is a symptom of spread of the breast cancer from the breast to the lymph nodes in the armpit. The lump is usually firm to hard, non-tender, irregular in shape and fixed to the underlying tissue.
- Breast Pain: Sometimes, the only symptom of an underlying breast cancer may be breast pain.
- Symptoms of Advanced Breast Cancer: Symptoms of an advanced case of breast cancer are weight loss, bone pain, skin ulceration and swelling of one arm.
Symptoms of Some Special Breast Cancers:
- Symptoms of Inflammatory Breast Cancer: In inflammatory breast cancer, the breast may suddenly increase in size and constantly feel warm or hot to the touch. The breast may be red all over or on one part only. Read more...
- Symptoms of Paget's Disease of the breast: Paget's disease of the breast/nipple is a rare disease frequently misdiagnosed as fungal infection or dematitis. It is usually associated with underlying cancer of the breast, especially Ductal carcinoma in Situ (DCIS). Read more...
- Symptoms of Male Breast Cancer: Like in women, some common symptoms of breast cancer in men are a lump in the breast, swelling in breast, chest wall or nipple, discharge from the nipple, inversion of the nipple, dimpling of the skin of the breast or areola and a lump in the armpit.