There are usually few, if any, outward signs of breast cancer when it is still in its earliest stages. The best way to ensure early detection of breast cancer is to know your body. Since visual detection is uncommon in the initial stages of breast cancer, regular mammograms are recommended, especially for those with a higher risk for developing breast cancer.
There are a few signs of breast cancer that can be observed through routine self examination. It is important to point out, however, that the breast changes all the time, especially during menstruation. And most of the time, a change in the breast does not turn out to be cancerous.
Signs of breast cancer: Finding a lump
A lump or thickening of the breast is one of the most common signs of breast cancer. While it can be discovered through self examination, a lump can be detected by a mammogram much sooner than it will be felt or seen. In most cases, there is no pain associated with a lump in the breast, and in almost all cases it turns out to be benign, or non-cancerous.
Signs of breast cancer: Swelling
Breast cancer may cause swelling in the breast or armpit area. The swelling is not painful and should be observed for a time. If it doesn’t go away, especially after one menstrual cycle, it is a good idea to see a doctor.
Signs of breast cancer: Tenderness
As noted above, there is rarely pain associated with breast lumps, but there may be a tenderness noticed in the breast or around the nipple. Again, if it persists, see a doctor.
Signs of breast cancer: Changes in size or shape
Sometimes breast cancer will produce a flattening in the breast, or something that looks like an indentation. At other times there will be a noticeable change in the contour or size of one or both breasts. These changes can be an indication that there is cancer in the breast that cannot yet be felt.
Signs of breast cancer: Change in skin texture
Any change in the skin of the breast, nipple or areola can be a sign of breast cancer. These changes often appear on the surface and tend to resemble the peel of an orange, with redness, pitting or dimpling of the skin.
Signs of breast cancer: Changes in the nipple
Should the nipple appear to turn inward or become dimpled, it may be a sign of breast cancer. Any abnormal discharge from the nipple should also be watched and checked out if it persists. If the nipple or surrounding area become scaly, that can indicate a form of breast cancer known as Paget’s Disease, which is a localized form of the disease.
The best way to detect any of these signs of breast cancer is to be aware of the normal appearance of the areola, breast and nipples. While the vast majority of changes in breast appearance are not cancer, it is wise to watch anything that looks different.