Early detection of breast cancer may increase the odds of a positive prognosis in many patients. If breast cancer is discovered in the early stages, it can be treated successfully. The best forms of preventative treatment include mammogram screening and self-examinations. An individual who receives proper screening or performs self-exams may uncover various signs of the disease in its initial stages.
The Most Common Sign of Breast Cancer
The most widespread symptom of breast cancer is a lump, mass, thickening or hardening under the skin. Most cancerous lumps are hard, have irregular shapes, and cannot be easily moved around the breast. They typically are not tender to touch. Conversely, some breast cancers can be soft, rounded and painful, which is why proper screening is essential. Cancerous lumps can range in size, and some may be as small as two centimeters.
Lumps may develop close to the surface of the breast or deeper underneath the skin. They can also form in the underarm area. If a lump grows in the nipple, it can cause the nipple to invert. Although many breast lumps are cancerous, a significant number are benign. Many other health issues can cause masses to form in or around the breasts. This is why it is important to seek treatment from a professional if a lump is discovered.
Other Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Certain visual changes in the skin on and around the breast may be symptoms of breast cancer. These include bruising, redness, dimpling, flattening or thickening of the skin. Any changes in the texture, contour or size of the breast may also indicate cancer. If the skin becomes swollen, inflamed, irritated, itchy or scaly, cancer may be present. Additionally, a burning sensation or excessive warmth under the skin are signs of the disease as well.
In many cases of breast cancer, an unusual discharge trickles from the nipple. The discharge may be blood-stained or clear. Nipple discharge is often a sign of a benign condition, and it may be caused by certain medications or even nursing. A physician can examine the discharge to determine if there are cancerous cells present. Unrelenting pain in the nipple or breast may also be a sign of cancer, although other issues can cause pain.
Breast cancer is not confined to the breast and can spread to surrounding areas. Any swelling or abnormalities near the breast should be reported to a doctor. Cancer can spread to the lymph nodes at the collar bone or in the armpit. This can occur before a lump or change in breast tissue is discovered. If the lymph nodes become swollen or feel unusual, it is best to let a physician examine the area and determine the cause.
Detecting Rare Forms of Cancer
Some types of breast cancer exhibit symptoms that are easy to recognize. One rare form of cancer is Paget's Disease. This cancer focuses mainly on the nipple and areola. It often begins as a rash on the nipple that spreads to the breast skin. The skin may become scaly, itchy and red. A burning sensation may also be present. Generally, Paget's disease is uncomfortable and bothersome, which leads many people to seek treatment in time.
Another atypical type of the disease is inflammatory breast cancer. In the initial stages, the skin on the breast may appear infected. The entire breast may be swollen, red, firm or extremely sore. The skin may also become puckered, dimpled or pitted. Additionally, the surface of the skin may feel exceedingly hot. Many people with inflammatory breast cancer complain of an overall discomfort.
Differentiating Between Benign and Malignant Lumps
Not all breast lumps are signs of cancer, and it can be difficult determining the difference between a malignant and benign lump. Some masses in the breast are noncancerous cysts. Cysts are generally hard, fluid-filled lumps that can be easily pressed. A biopsy will indicate whether a cyst is cancerous or not. Another benign lump in the breast is fibroadenoma. This type of lump is easy to shift around the breast and typically develops in young adults.
Performing regular self-exams is the best way to keep track of any changes in the breasts. Normal breast tissue can feel bumpy, and the lumpiness can become even more noticeable during menstruation. Any changes in texture that do not lessen after a menstrual cycle may be problematic and should be discussed with a physician. Generally, an area on the breast that is markedly different than other areas should be assessed.
Symptoms of Male Breast Cancer
Although women are more prone to getting breast cancer, the disease affects a substantial number of men as well. Like the female version, male breast cancer develops as the result of abnormal cell mutation within the breast tissue. Because men have a smaller amount of breast tissue, the disease often spreads before it is diagnosed. Promptly identifying the symptoms of male breast cancer can prevent the disease from spreading to an advanced stage.
One of the most common symptoms of male breast cancer is a small lump under the nipple. The nodule may be hard to the touch, but it will most likely not cause discomfort or pain. The skin on or around the nipple may pucker, dimple, wrinkle, invert or become scaly. Redness and the appearance of a rash are also common signs of male breast cancer. Some men notice a red, white or clear discharge coming from the nipple as well.
Signs that male breast cancer may have spread include sudden and unexplainable weight loss and an overall feeling of fatigue. Chronic and persistent pain or soreness all over the body may also indicate that cancer has spread. Once the disease spreads to other areas of the body, it is more difficult to treat. This is why men should perform self-exams and visit their physicians regularly.
Observing Symptoms Saves Lives
Anytime an abnormality is noticed in the breast, it is best to seek the advice of a medical professional. If a lump or other symptom doesn't have cancerous characteristics, there is still a chance that it is malignant. A physician can perform a mammogram or biopsy to determine if harmful cells are present. Getting a diagnosis as soon as possible is an essential step in preventing cancer from metastasizing to other areas of the body. Early assessment of symptoms often results in a positive prognosis.
There are numerous factors that may create a predisposition to developing breast cancer. Even if symptoms aren't present, anyone who is susceptible to getting the disease should be examined on a regular basis. Those who have been exposed to high levels of radiation or estrogen may be more at risk. Additionally, anyone who has a family history of breast cancer should watch for any symptoms of the disease.
Many people who are in the early stages of breast cancer do not exhibit outward symptoms. This is why it is vital that men and women perform monthly examinations of their breasts. Frequently checking for any unusual lumps or anomalies on or around the breasts is a substantial stepping stone to early detection. Self-screening can begin as young as the mid-twenties, and doing so takes very little time or effort.