Early detection of breast cancer is crucial for successful treatment. Fortunately, you can learn everything you need to know about the symptoms of breast cancer with a search online, which could help you spot them early.
This common cancer occurs most commonly in females, but does also affect men. Performing regular self-exams and knowing what to look for is a critical part of self-screening and early detection for this disease.
How Common is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among females in the United States, accounting for 1 in 3 new cancer diagnoses every year. In 2023 alone, an estimated 297,790 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women, and approximately 43,700 women are expected to die from the disease.
Lump or Mass
One of the most common signs of breast cancer is the development of a new lump or mass in the breast, often around the collarbone, the nipples or lymph nodes. This lump may feel hard, immobile, and relatively painless. It’s important to note that not all breast lumps are cancerous, and many women have lumpy breasts that are malignant.
Changes in Breast Tissue
Breast cancer can also cause changes in the size, shape, or texture of the breast. For example, the breast may become swollen, red, or inflamed, or it may appear to be a different shape or size than usual. In some cases, breast tissue may feel thickened or ridged.
You may notice changes like these if you’re performing regular self-examinations in the mirror. Your partner or spouse may also notice changes before you do.
Breast cancer can cause changes to the nipple, such as inversion or retraction. You may also notice discharge from the nipple that is not related to breastfeeding, as this type of cancer is prone to developing in the milk ducts. Discharge may be milky, blood-tinged or watery and is not normal.
Breast cancer can cause changes to the skin on the breast, such as dimpling, puckering, or scaling. The skin may also appear to be reddened or inflamed, and it may feel itchy (without a rash present) or warm to the touch.
While this type of cancer is not always associated with pain, some women may experience discomfort or tenderness in the breast. This pain may be localized to one area or may be felt throughout the breast.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
Swollen lymph nodes can be a sign of breast cancer. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped structures that help fight infection and filter out waste products from the body. When breast cancer cells spread, they can travel to nearby lymph nodes, causing them to swell.
Family or Personal History
Having a family history of breast cancer can increase your risk of developing the disease. If you have a first-degree relative (such as a mother, sister, or daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, it is important to discuss your risk with your doctor.
If you have been previously diagnosed with breast cancer, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a recurrence. Some women may develop a new cancer in the same or opposite breast.
Risk Factors and Prevention
In addition to being aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, there are a number of other steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing the disease. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, some of the risk factors for breast cancer include age, genetics and certain lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption and obesity.
To reduce your risk, you can make healthy lifestyle choices such as maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active, limiting alcohol consumption, and avoiding smoking. Additionally, performing monthly self-examinations, as well as getting regular mammograms and other breast cancer screenings can help detect the disease in its early stages when it is most treatable.