Breast cancer is something people hear about all too often, but never really expect will happen to them. Even for patients who are at a higher risk for it due to their genes and family history, the news that they have breast cancer often comes as a shock. Unfortunately, you can’t control whether or not you will get breast cancer at some point in your life. Having great breast cancer awareness, though, can save your life. That’s why early detection is so crucial.
Don’t wait until Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October to do a self-breast exam or schedule a mammography, breast cancer certainly won’t. If you suspect something different is occurring in your breast, here are seven warning signs of breast cancer you should check for.
Typically when you’re told to conduct self-check-ups, you’re instructed to feel for hard and painless lumps in your breast tissue. While this is a good way of checking for abnormal masses, it is also very limited and fails to bring attention to other ways your breast may be showing warning signs of breast cancer.
Breast cancer can present itself in many different ways. For example, you may find a lump that sticks out from the rest of the breast tissue, but the lump is soft instead of hard or rounded instead of irregularly sized, or even painful. These cases may also be signs of breast cancer and should not be ignored simply because they do not fit the “hard, irregular-shaped, and painless” description. Here are some additional symptoms that may indicate breast cancer:
Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or around the collarbone. Breast tissue covers the area under the arms and into the collarbone, and sometimes breast cancer can spread to the lymph nodes in these areas before the original breast tumor is even large enough to be felt.
Swelling of all or part of the breast. Even if you feel no distinct mass or lump, if you notice that any part of your breast is experiencing swelling, then it may be breast cancer.
Skin irritation or dimpling. This irritation and dimpling is sometimes referred to as looking like an orange peel would.
Breast or nipple pain.
Nipple retraction. You may feel like your breast skin is being pulled inward, and you may notice that your nipple is actually pulling inward too.
Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin.
Nipple discharge. The discharge can include anything other than breast milk, and usually occurs without the breast being squeezed, or only on one breast.
What To Do After Breast Cancer Signs Appear
If you notice any of the aforementioned breast cancer signs on yourself, your next step should be scheduling an appointment to see your doctor. Your doctor will take a look at your breasts and conduct a visual and manual check to confirm that the signs of breast cancer are present. Then, he will likely call for further tests to be conducted, such as a mammogram, ultrasound, mri, or biopsy.
Self-checks for breast cancer are of vital importance, but if you are over the age of 45 then you should also be receiving annual mammograms, at least until the age 54. Women over the age of 55 should receive mammograms once every two years. To learn more about the warning signs of breast cancer, or to visit one of our women’s imaging centers, please feel free to book an appointment today!