Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women, so it’s important to be aware of the symptoms. Here are the signs that everyone should know about so it can be caught as early as possible.
Breast lumps This is the one that everyone knows and is the clearest sign that there may be something wrong. If you’re a woman and are doing monthly self-exams as recommended, you should be able to detect any abnormal lumps. Breast tissue is naturally bumpy in texture, but if there’s a lump that feels harder than the rest of the breast tissue, it might be a cause for concern. However, it’s important to note that not all lumps are cancer, so don’t freak out!
Other changes in breast appearance Besides lumps, other changes in the way the breasts look or feel can be a bad sign. Cancer can cause skin sores, for instance, which are caused by cancer cells breaking down the skin. Swelling or shrinkage of the breasts or in only one breast is another warning signal. A lot of women have boobs that are naturally different sizes, but if your breasts suddenly change, it could mean something isn’t right.
Growing breast veins This is apparently a rare symptom and is actually a result of the tumor drawing more blood to itself. But just because someone has a prominent breast vein doesn’t mean she has breast cancer. Large veins can appear when women breastfeed or when they gain weight, for example. Unfortunately, it can occur when breast cancer is present too.
Redness or hotness in the breasts Sometimes part of the breast skin can become hot or swollen because the cancer is blocking circulation in the breasts. It can even look bruised sometimes. Still, this is also a common symptom of infection, so again, it isn’t a sure sign of cancer, but it’s something to be aware of.
Changes in texture of breast skin This can be a difference in the way breast skin feels or an increase in skin thickness in any part of the breast. Also, sometimes the skin can look almost like an orange peel with ridges and pitting. This is also caused by the tumor blocking proper circulation through the breasts.
Alterations in nipple appearance Cancer can also cause crusting of the nipples or rashes that develop on one or both nipples. The nipples and areolas may look dry and sunburned. Sudden tenderness of the nipples may also be a less obvious clue.
Weird discharge from the nipples Nipple discharge that is milky (unless the woman is breastfeeding, of course), clear, or bloody is a hint that breast cancer might be the problem. If these symptoms come on suddenly or appear only in one breast, then it’s more likely to be serious. Still, it’s important to mention that other things can cause nipple discharge like infection and birth control pills, for instance.
Breast or nipple dimpling Dimpling or indentation of breasts can also occur with breast cancer. Dimpling can also happen in one or both nipples, and it can appear as if the nipple is retracting inward. This is caused by a tumor pulling on the breast. Some women’s nipples are naturally inverted, but if the nipples haven’t always been that way, it might be a reason to worry.
Changes in the lymph nodes Lymph nodes in the body are responsible for filtering out harmful things like viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells. This can cause swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpit or in the collarbone. It’ll feel like small hard lumps in those areas. It could mean cancer, but could also suggest another issue instead like an unrelated infection.
Breast pain Breast cancer can cause pain, sensitivity, and sometimes even burning. This doesn’t always happen, but if it does, it might be a good idea to see a doctor, especially if the pain doesn’t go away.
No symptoms at all. Some people diagnosed with breast cancer don’t experience any of these symptoms, particularly if it’s caught early. That’s why it’s important to do self-checks and to start getting mammograms at the recommended age of 40 to 44. Getting tested and knowing the signs of breast cancer can go a long way toward fighting it.
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