Breast cancer is becoming a more and more widespread cancer in recent years, to the point that more than 250,000 women in the world will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the end of 2015. Statistically, 14% of all cancers among the female population are breast cancer.
The good news is that thanks to the advanced technology and accessibility to mammography and screening, more and more women can discover the breast cancer at its early stages before even some of the initial signs of breast cancer appear. The downside, however, is that not all breast cancers can be discovered with mammography.
When it comes to signs of breast cancer, there are visible and invisible signs. There are also early signs and late signs of cancer. In an ideal world, you should be able to discover breast cancer before it even appears with regular use of mammography. But since the world is not ideal, you must protect yourself and check for early signs of cancer. You should also note that not all signs are same for all women.
We will divide the signs of breast cancers into early signs and later signs. You absolutely cannot ignore the early signs, and hope that you will never get to see and experience the later signs.
The early signs of breast cancer are:
- breast pain that doesn’t go away until your next menstrual circle
- changes in the shape of the nipples
- a new lump that doesn’t disappear until your next menstrual circle
- nipple discharge that can be red, brown, or yellow in color
- redness, rash, skin irritation, swelling and itchiness on the breast
- a lump or swelling under the arm or under the collarbone
If you notice any of the early signs of breast cancer, consult your physician instantly. If you ignore or do not notice the early signs, cancer can progress. The later signs of breast cancer are the following:
- enlargement of one breast (one breast is bigger than the other)
- retraction of the nipple
- the existing lump gets bigger
- dimpling of the breast surface
- vaginal pain
- enlarged lymph nodes
- visible veins on the breast
- weight loss
Another important note: not all of the signs necessarily point to breast cancer. Some of the signs can be attributed to other infections. For example, nipple discharge is also a sign of infection. However, whenever you notice one or more of the signs of breast cancer, it is crucial that you see your doctor.
For easier recognition of some of the common signs, we will try to explain them. For example, the lump in the breast is often benign, or in 9% of the cases. The benign lumps are often confused with cysts, or sacs of fluid in the breast tissue. The lump can be detected easily by self-examination.
Discharges, another common sign of breast cancer can come from either nipple. Discharges can sometimes be bloody, while other times, they are milky. If your discharge is milky, and you are not breastfeeding at the time, check with your doctor.
Dimpling on the breasts often looks like orange-peel in appearance. That is why the sign is often referred as orange peel.
Understanding breast lumps and lumpiness
It is crucial that you understand the difference between lumpiness and breast lumps. The fact is, in many women, breasts feel lumpy, a condition that can be attributed to the texture of the breast tissue. Since the tissue has a bumpy texture, some women have more lumpiness than others. Check your breasts, if you can feel the lumpiness throughout the breasts, and if both breasts feel the same, it is nothing to be concerned about.
Breast lumps, on the other hand, feel harder than the rest of the breast. If you find a new lump that feels different from the rest of your breast, or from you another breast, see a doctor. It is important to know that even if you had a benign lump before, the new lump won’t be the same. And while the new lump doesn’t necessarily have to be breast cancer, it is better to be safe than sorry.