Every woman’s nightmare is finding a lump in their breast.
It’s what makes monthly self-exams so scary—and so crucial. Catching breast cancer early on can mean the difference between timely recovery and a long-term battle.
But there’s more to breast cancer than lumps and nodes, so if you’re going to give yourself the best chance at detection, you’ll need to look out for these breast cancer warning signs.
Changes in Breast or Nipple Appearance
Bring up any change of appearance in your breasts or nipples with your doctor. This can include the following breast cancer symptoms:
- Swelling or thickening in one part of the breast
- Dimpling or puckering, as with the skin of an orange
- Pinkness or redness
- Flaky skin
- Retraction or pulling in of the area around the nipple, or the nipple itself
- Sudden changes in the size or shape of one breast
These can be some of the most telling symptoms of cancer, and you should talk to your doctor about further testing and treatment. Some women who see these changes find that they are not serious; others learn they must undergo intensive treatments. For those who opt for mastectomies, these tips can help with recovery.
Changes in Feel of the Breast or Nipple
If you have been following through with your regular breast self-exam, you’re probably already on alert for any changes in the feel of your breasts.
Breast lumps are one of the most well-known warning signs of cancer, but it’s important to be careful about jumping to conclusions. All breast tissue is bumpy in texture, which can make it difficult to tell if your lump is natural or new.
A good rule of thumb is to check that the lumpy texture of one breast approximates the texture of the other, as this means your breast tissue is likely normal.
Any nipple discharge other than breast milk is suspect, including any discharge of blood. However, there are many reasons for nipple leaking, including menstrual hormone changes. Talk to your doctor to see if what you’re seeing is worrying.
Lumps or Nodes in the Underarm Area
Even if you have no warning signs of breast cancer in your breasts themselves, it’s important to also check your armpit. If you feel any sign of enlargement, you may have swelling in your axillary lymph nodes, meaning that cancer cells may have invaded your lymphatic system.
Painful or Strange Breast Sensations
If you feel any sudden or unusual sensations in one or both breasts, it
This can include the following potential breast cancer signs:
- Itchiness or tingling
- Pain or throbbing
- Unusual warmth
Some of these sensations are signs of rare forms of breast cancer, so it’s worth being alert to any changes you notice.
Talk to Your Doctor About These Breast Cancer Warning Signs
There are many symptoms of cancer—but not every symptom guarantees you have the disease. If you notice any of the breast cancer warning signs above or any other worrying symptoms, talk to a medical professional. Your doctor will be able to tell if you need further testing and breast cancer treatment, or if you have no cause to fear. Check out our other posts for more info on health, prevention, and more.