Finding a Lump or Hard Knot
Breast tissue is naturally lumpy, but some women may detect a lump or knot that feels harder or thicker than surrounding tissue. Not every lump is cancerous. Some lumps are related to a woman’s menstrual cycle and disappear after menstruation, or a lump may indicate a benign cyst. However, if you ever notice any type of unusual growth you should be seen by a doctor.
Dimpled or puckered skin can be a sign of breast cancer, as can large, visible pores or the skin taking on an orange-peel-like appearance. If your breast or breasts show any of those indicators, don’t wait – call your physician.
If you notice patches of skin on your breast, nipple or areola– the darkened skin surrounding the nipple — pay close attention. If those areas become scaly, itchy and red or darkened or your breast feels warm where irritations have broken out, it’s best to be seen by a doctor.
Changes in Breast Size
If you are not breastfeeding, a sudden swelling in one or both breasts may indicate a blockage that causes lymph fluid to back up. A problem with your lymph nodes may also appear as swelling in your collarbone or armpits. If one or both breasts shrink unexpectedly, it may be a sign of significant hormonal changes, which can be a trigger for cancer.
It’s normal to have one breast that is slightly larger than the other, but if you notice a recent change in your breasts, bring this up with your doctor.
Some types of breast cancer cause the nipple to retract or completely invert. If this is not normal for you, see a doctor. Conditions such as pregnancy, breastfeeding and aging can cause these changes. Some people are born with inverted nipples, too.
A discharge from your nipple, whether clear or bloody, may indicate a tumor. But an infection or an injury to your breast can be the cause of the discharge too. It helps to be aware of any discharge and to keep track of it. If it persists, check with your doctor.
Breast pain makes the list of common symptoms, but be aware that while some breast cancers cause pain in the breast, most do not. Studies have shown that only about 5 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer had pain as their main symptom.
*Image by Allied Academies