Often, there are no symptoms of breast cancer, but signs of breast cancer can include a breast lump or an abnormal mammogram. Breast cancer stages range from early, curable breast cancer to metastatic breast cancer, with a variety of breast cancer treatments. There are different types of breast cancer. In addition, breast cancer in men is not uncommon and male breast cancer must be taken seriously.
What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
In its early stages, breast cancer usually has no symptoms. As a tumor develops, you may note the following signs:
A lump in the breast or underarm that persists after your menstrual cycle; often the first apparent symptom of breast cancer, breast lumps are painless, although some may cause a prickly sensation. Lumps are usually visible on a mammogram long before they can be seen or felt.
Swelling in the armpit.
Although lumps are usually painless, pain or tenderness in the breast can be a sign of breast cancer.
A noticeable flattening or indentation on the breast, which may indicate a tumor that cannot be seen or felt.
Any change in the size, contour, texture, or temperature of the breast; a reddish, pitted surface like the skin of an orange could be a sign of advanced breast cancer.
A change in the nipple, such as an indrawn or dimpled look, itching or burning sensation, or ulceration; scaling of the nipple is symptomatic of Paget's disease, a localized cancer.
Unusual discharge from the nipple that may be clear, bloody, or another color. It's usually caused by benign conditions but could be due to cancer in some cases.
A marble-like area under the skin.
An area that is distinctly different from any other area on either breast
Call Your Doctor About Breast Cancer If:
One or both breasts develop an abnormal lump or persistent pain, or look or feel abnormal.
The cause often is something other than cancer but should be identified.
You have swollen lymph glands in your armpits. Any such swelling could be associated with cancer.
Diagnosis & Tests
A A A Early detection can be a big plus in treating breast cancer. Learn about breast cancer tests and diagnosis. Due for a mammogram? Please make your appointment now.
Breast Cancer Detection
The earlier breast cancer is detected, the better it may be for the patient’s long-term health. Get a brief overview of the tests that can help detect breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Screening: What Kind and When?
For women at normal risk of breast cancer, self-exams, clinical exams, and mammography starting at 40 may screen for breast cancer. Abnormal results or high-risk women may need earlier screening or additional tests. Read more.
Do you do regular breast self-exams? While some cancers are too tiny to feel, and most lumps aren’t cancer, self-exams are a proactive way to help take care of yourself. Learn how.
Clinical Breast Exam
A clinical breast exam is a breast exam performed by a health care professional. It’s a basic part of women’s check-ups, starting at age 20. Find out what to expect from a clinical breast exam.
A mammogram is a special type of X-ray taken to look for abnormal growths or changes in breast tissue. It’s a key tool in breast cancer detection, though no test is perfect. Learn more here.
Understanding the Mammogram Results
Most abnormal mammogram results aren’t breast cancer. But more testing is needed to make sure. The bottom line: Don’t panic, but do get the follow-up tests.
Video: Surviving Mammography
Do you find mammograms uncomfortable? Don’t skip the test; just learn how to handle it better. This video explains how to deal with mammogram discomfort.
Doctors sometimes use ultrasound images to check whether a breast lump is a cyst (a fluid-filled sac that is not cancer) or a solid mass. Read more here.
MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. Learn how breast MRI is used to help detect breast cancer.
When doctors perform a biopsy, they remove cells from a suspicious mass to see if it’s cancer. This article provides an overview of breast biopsies.
Minimally Invasive Breast Biopsy
This type of breast biopsy generally uses a needle, not surgery. Learn what’s involved in minimally invasive breast biopsy.
Sentinel Node Biopsy
In a sentinal node biopsy, doctors check a few lymph nodes under the arm to see if cancer has spread into the lymph system. Learn what’s involved in a sentinel node biopsy.
Ductal lavage checks cells from the milk ducts for precancerous cells. Read about it here.