Breast Cancer: 5 Signs You Need to See a Doctor
Paying attention to your body and being aware when something changes could save your life.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. One in eight women in the United States is likely to develop breast cancer, and by the end of 2016 about 40,450 women will die from the disease. Since early diagnosis is the key to treatment and recovery, it’s important to know what changes to look for in your breasts.
Here are 5 symptoms to look for during your monthly breast exams:
1. A lump or mass
A new lump or mass is the most common symptom of breast cancer. Masses that are painless, hard and have irregular edges are more likely to be cancer, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, rounded or painful. That’s why it’s important to have any mass, lump or change checked by a doctor experienced in diagnosing breast diseases.
2. Change in shape or size
Check for swelling of all or part of your breasts. A tumor can change the shape or size. When you’re doing your breast self-exam, remember to check under your arms for lumps or swelling. Sometimes breast cancer spreads to the lymph nodes under the arm and around the collar bone, and causes swelling even before the original tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt.
3. Nipple discharge other than breast milk
Discharge that is clear or blood-tinged that appears without squeezing can be concerning and should be evaluated by a physician.
4. Irritated skin, puckering or dimpling
Watch for a persistent skin rash, scaling or thickening of the skin. This may or may not be associated with itching. Also, any puckering or dimpling of the skin should be evaluated.
5. Inverted nipples
Some women tend to have inverted nipples and can be normal for these individuals. If an inverted nipple is a recent development for you, get it checked out. Some cancers impact the breast ducts and can cause the nipples to invert.
Don't wait to make an appointment
If you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor. “I encourage women who have any concerns about their breasts to come see me—and you do not need to be referred by a physician,” said Dr. Hanley, fellowship-trained breast surgeon at the Genesis Breast Care Center. “I am here to answer your questions, and if we find a problem, we will explore your options together.”