Breast Cancer’s Warning Signs
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer found in women, worldwide. Besides regular mammograms, it’s also important to know your breasts and to be aware of any changes taking place as well as the early signs and symptoms of breast cancer.
The symptoms of breast cancer may vary from person to person and sometimes, no symptoms are exhibited, but a doctor will identify a mass on a mammogram. Hence, regular screening should become like a habit, in order to detect this condition in its earliest and most treatable stage.
That said, the most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass, one that is painless, hard and possesses somewhat irregular edges is likely to be cancer. There are also cases when the lumps can be tender, soft, or round and trigger pain. For this reason, it's of utmost importance to not dilly dally and seek medical advice from your doctor.
Common Symptoms of Breast Cancer:
Swelling of the breast
Breast cancer has the tendency to enlarge the entire breast or an area through swelling. While you may not notice a distinct lump through the swelling, a significant change in size is noticeable. If there’s a tight sensation on the skin, it’s most likely due to the swelling and demands checking by the doctor.
Dimpling of skin
Skin dimpling - if you find a texture on your breasts that resembles an orange peel, it could be a tell tale sign of inflammatory breast cancer, an aggressive type of breast cancer. This is caused by a build-up of lymph fluid, caused by cancer cells. It’s best to consult your doctor immediately after noticing skin dimpling.
Different Skin Texture
Self-examination for breast cancer involves feeling your breasts for any lumps or changes in the skin texture, caused by inflammation in skin cells. Keep an eye out for the following change in texture:
scaly skin around the nipple and areola, akin to being sunburned or extremely dry
skin thickening in any part of the breast
Redness or Discolouration
Another change to the skin one needs to pay heed to is discoloration - the skin may appear red or purple or have a bluish tint, like it's bruised. If you haven’t experienced any trauma that can explain the discolouration, see your doctor. It is especially important to seek consultation if the breast discolouration does not disappear.
Breast or nipple discomfort
In the onset or development of breast cancer, the cancerous cells cause change in skin cells which lead to pain, tenderness and discomfort. Although breast cancer is painless in most cases, any pain or difference noticed should not be taken lightly. Some may describe the pain in the breasts comparable to a burning sensation.
When cancerous cells attack the breasts, it can alter the cells surrounding the nipple. These changes can result in the nipple inverting and reversing inward into the breast or may differ in size. The nipples are known to change during ovulation or menstrual cycle, but that said, any new observations shouldn’t go unchecked.
Discharge from the nipular area (if you’re not breastfeeding) isn’t normal. This discharge can be thin or thick and its colour range from clear to milky to yellow, green, or red. If you’re unsure, the safe bet is to visit your doctor.
Swollen lymph nodes
If a cancer cell does spread from the breast, the first area it attacks is the lymph nodes - the underarm lymph node. In addition to swollen nodes in the armpit, you can notice them around the collarbone. It will feel like small, firm, swollen lumps and may be tender to the touch.
Your lymph nodes, also called lymph glands, play a vital role in your body's ability to fight off infections. Think of them as filters that trap viruses, bacteria and other causes of illnesses before they can infect other parts of your body. Common areas to find swollen lymph nodes include your neck, under your chin, armpits and groin.
It’s also important to take note that the lymph tissue might undergo changes from change breast infections or completely unrelated illnesses.
P/S: Although the symptoms listed above may not be caused by breast cancer, you should seek medical advice from a doctor, nevertheless. It is vital to note that being aware of your changes in your breast doesn’t replace mammograms and other screening tests. Screening tests are done for early detection of breast cancer, before symptoms surfaces. The earlier the detection of breast cancer, the higher the chance of successful treatment.