Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women globally. Early detection can greatly improve the chances of successful treatment and survival. Understanding and recognizing the early signs of breast cancer can make a life-saving difference which means you won’t need the assistance of a breast cancer surgeon. Here’s a guide on how to spot these signs:
- Change in Breast Size or Shape:
A noticeable change in the size or shape of one breast, especially if it’s different from the other, can be a sign. While breasts naturally vary in size and shape, sudden, unexplained changes warrant a closer look.
- Lumps or Masses in the Breast:
Some of the most numerous and well-known signs of breast cancer is the presence of a lumpy mass. This does not mean you have cancer just because there is a lump, but any new lump or old lump that changes in size, shape, or consistency should be checked by a professional in health care.
- Skin Changes:
Any unexplained redness, dimpling, puckering, or other skin changes on the breast can be indicative of breast cancer. The skin might resemble an orange peel, a condition known as “peau d’orange.”
- Nipple Discharge:
While some discharge can be benign, especially if it’s clear and appears from both nipples, any bloody or watery discharge should be investigated further. Also, any discharge that occurs without squeezing the nipple is of concern.
- Nipple Changes:
In some cases, breast cancer can cause the nipple to invert or turn inward. If your nipple starts to pull back inside the breast or changes direction, it’s essential to consult a doctor.
- Pain in the Breast:
While breast pain is common and can be linked to menstrual cycles, persistent pain that doesn’t go away should be taken seriously, especially if it’s localized to one area.
- Swelling in the Armpit or Near the Collarbone:
Lymph nodes can swell due to breast cancer even before you can feel a lump in the breast. If you notice swelling or lumps in the armpit or near the collarbone, it might be a sign.
- Texture Changes:
An area of the breast may feel hard, tender, or have a different texture than the surrounding tissue. This could feel like grainy bumps, and while it might not be a distinct lump, it should be examined.
- Rash or Crusting:
If there’s a rash, crusting, or scales, especially around the nipple, it may be indicative of certain types of breast cancer.
- Unexplained Pain or Tenderness:
While breasts can be naturally tender, especially around menstruation, any unexplained or persistent pain should be checked.
Prevention and Proactive Measures:
Regular breast self-examinations can help you become familiar with how your breasts typically look and feel. This familiarity makes it easier to notice any changes. Monthly self-exams, ideally a few days after your menstrual cycle ends, are recommended.
In addition to self-exams, regular mammograms are essential. Guidelines vary, but many professionals recommend annual or biannual mammograms for women aged 40 and older. Women with a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors might need to start screenings earlier.
Breast cancer, when detected early, has a high treatment success rate. Familiarizing oneself with the signs and staying vigilant is vital. While many of the symptoms listed above can also be linked to benign breast conditions, it’s always better to be safe and consult with a healthcare professional. Remember, proactive measures and early detection are your best allies in the fight against breast cancer.