Cancer occurs when some of the body’s cells behave abnormally, changing, growing, and reproducing more than usual. In the case of breast cancer, abnormal cell growth occurs in breast tissue cells. Identifying what you may deem a breast cancer symptom can send you into a negative spiral of anxiety. The fear is justifiable, but confirm the diagnosis instead of thinking that the problem will resolve itself.
What Is Breast Cancer?
The National Cancer Institute suggests that 12.8% of women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer at some point over the course of their lives. The risk increases with age, but a person is never “too young” to develop breast cancer, according to doctors. Breast cancer can begin in different parts of the breast, and the cells that turn cancerous will determine the type of breast cancer. Breast cancer can occur in the lobules, ducts, and connective tissues in the breasts, but most cancers tend to occur in the ducts or lobules.
It’s possible for breast cancer to spread outside the breast through blood vessels and lymph vessels. When the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, the cancer is said to have metastasized. Fortunately, oncologists say that the five-year survival rate at the earliest stage of breast cancer is 98.5%. That’s why it’s integral to understand the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, which you can learn about below.
A Hard Painless Lump
The most well-known, and common, sign of breast cancer is a lump; however, having a lump is not always indicative of cancer. Some lumps are often benign cysts, while other lumps are harmless and occur during pregnancy. If you detect or feel a lump that sticks around for more than one period cycle, visit your doctor.
One Or Both Nipples Are Inverted
All breasts are different and the same can be said for nipples. Some nipples point out, others are perfectly flat, and some point inward, a.k.a inverted. Some women have naturally inverted nipples, and this is not a sign of breast cancer. If you notice that one or both of your nipples are no longer erect and now inverted, you should call your doctor to check it out.
Discoloration Of Breast Skin
Age and health history are key factors in regards to this symptom of breast cancer. If you are in your 30s and breastfeeding, discolored breast skin may indicate mastitis, an infection of breast tissue that results from a blocked milk duct. If you are in your 50s or 60s and/or postmenopausal and you notice skin discoloration on one or both of your breasts, that is cause for concern. Unless you recall a bug bite or injury affecting the breast, contact your doctor for an exam to determine the cause. During the examination, the doctor should determine whether inflammatory breast cancer is the cause. Discoloration may include red and inflamed breasts that feel heavy.
Your Breast Has Similar Texture To A Golf Ball
Dotted craters, or dimpling, on an area of one or both breasts may indicate breast cancer. Consistent with breast shrinkage, the tumor may pull on the skin and cause irregular divots. As a result, the breast may appear textured and resemble an orange peel or golf ball. Peau d’orange, or “skin of the orange” in French, is when the breast looks like an orange peel, and this may be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer.
One Breast Shrinks
If both breasts used to be full and then you notice one is visibly smaller, a tumor may exist in that smaller breast. When a tumor is in one breast, it will pull the skin and ligaments and cause the breast to shrink. A large percentage of breast tissue is fat, which cancer eats up and causes the breast to appear smaller.
Unusual Nipple Discharge
Any expert will tell you that the only fluid that should exit the nipple is breast milk, provided you are breastfeeding. If you notice other fluid or nipple discharge, including blood discharge, that warrants a call to your doctor. It is possible that breast cancer isn’t the cause of nipple discharge, though. Sometimes, it may occur because of a benign growth, but you should not neglect it, especially if the discharge is unexplained.