What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer Besides a Lump?
By: Chelsea Spatz
Women are told how important it is to regularly check our breasts for lumps. But breast cancer - that sneaky, destructive, and awful disease - manifests its symptoms in other ways as well, and it is crucial that women know what to look for beyond just lumps. An early diagnosis is key for survival, and the more you are in tune with subtle changes in your body, the more likely you will be able to get the proper treatment. Below are some other signs to look for when doing your monthly self-exam.
Feel for Changes
When checking your breasts for lumps, you should also be paying attention for any changes in size and shape. By doing frequent self-exams, you can become familiar with how your breasts normally feel, and therefore, any changes will be much more noticeable. Look for feelings of lumps or firm, bumpy tissue, especially on the side of breasts, under the armpits, and around the nipple. Any of these symptoms, or a feeling of swollen lymph glands, should be checked by a doctor.
On that note make sure you are doing your self exams at the same time of your menstrual cycle each month, as hormonal changes can also cause differences that may actually be perfectly normal. By doing your self-exams the same time monthly, you will not be alarmed by a normal change that may occur around the time of your menstrual period.
Note the Nipples
Changes in your nipples are a visible sign that something might be amiss as well. If your nipples have any discharge, regardless of color or texture, you should definitely see a doctor. Be on the lookout for nipples that begin to invert, any sudden redness or thickness of the areola, or feelings of pain. These are causes for concern. Even if you are breastfeeding, these may be irregularities that your doctor thinks should be examined further to rule out the possibility of cancer.
Don’t Just Feel - Look
Beyond the standard feeling of lumps, you should also note visual changes in breast appearance, such as a sudden lopsidedness that occurs when one breast changes size and shape. Of course, even healthy breasts are never perfectly symmetrical, so the keywords to raise a red flag are sudden changes. Swelling in any part of the breast, including under the armpits and up to the collarbone, should not be ignored.
Pay attention to the skin on the breast as well, as some symptoms can be a sign of cancer as well. If the skin gets red, itchy, scaly, dimpled, bumpy, pitted (like the peel of an orange), thick, or puckered, it is wise to call your physician to get it checked.
When in Doubt, Get it Checked Out!
Because breasts are so affected by the endocrine system, they go through many changes throughout our lifetime. Factors like our menstrual cycle, birth control, pregnancy, menopause, and hormone therapy can cause subtle to noticeable changes in our breasts. It is important to be familiar with your body, and to take action when anything that new or worrisome arises. Many times, these differences are completely normal. Often times, they are a symptom of breast cancer. It is always better to play it safe and see your doctor if anything unusual arises so that you can either put your mind at ease, or to take swift action if an exam comes back irregular. It is important to spread the word that the symptoms of breast cancer don’t always begin and end with lumps.
This article appears exclusively on ZALEA.com.
Keywords: breast cancer, breast cancer symptoms, breast lumps, nipple discharge, swollen breasts, swollen lymph nodes, breast changes