The most common symptom of cancer is a lump in the breast. However, there are more worrying signals. It is worth knowing them, because the effectiveness of breast cancer treatment depends on how early it is detected.
Although it is the most common cancer in women (about 20% of cancers), the causes of breast cancer are unknown. Factors that increase the risk include, family history of breast cancer, a mutation in the BRCA gene, the first menstrual period before the age of 12 and menopause after the age of 55, or regular drinking of alcohol. Breast cancer detected early is almost always curable. Unfortunately, women report to the doctor late, which drastically worsens the prognosis. Every woman should regularly examine her breasts and know the basic symptoms of this dangerous cancer.
The main symptoms of breast cancer. The 7 most important symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Tumor in the breast
- nipple changes (nipple retraction, nippleulceration)
- nipple discharge
- skin lesions of the breast (skin pulling, orange peel symptom, ulceration, satellite nodules),
- breast pain,
- signs of inflammation in the breast (swelling, redness, warmer skin, pain).
The listed symptoms of breast cancer do not have to appear simultaneously, you may notice some of them or only one. Also, remember that the lack of feeling a lump in the breast during self-examination does not exclude the existence of breast cancer.
Lump in the breast
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a tumor. It occurs in 65-75% of cases. It is generally a hard, painless, clearly limited change, often perceptible by touch. It may have uneven edges. Very rarely, a lump in the breast is accompanied by symptoms such as pulling, pinching or other ailments. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor about any disturbing change found in the breast.
If you feel lumps or lumps in the breast, it is important to observe them throughout the menstrual cycle. Thickenings that grow before menstruation and decrease or disappear completely after menstruation are probably a harmless physiological change. In most women, the breasts swell a few days before their period, which is associated with hormonal changes and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Breast cancer, on the other hand, may be indicated by all lumps and lumps that appeared suddenly and do not change size during the cycle. All such changes should be reported to the doctor, as they may indicate the development of cancer.
An important symptom of breast cancer is any changes affecting the wart. The fact that a malignant tumor develops in the breast is often evidenced by pulling the nipple inside or ulceration of this part of the breast. The ulcer can proceed as erosion or eczema at the edge of the nipple (a typical symptom of Paget’s cancer). The occurrence of changes in the appearance of the wart should be consulted with a doctor.
In some patients, nipple retraction occurs during puberty and is not a cause for concern, but it is always worth seeking medical advice. Especially dangerous are concavities that appear suddenly after the age of 40.
Nipple leakage may or may not be a symptom of breast cancer. If the discharge has the appearance of a white-yellow liquid, hyperprolactinemia, that is, an excess of the hormone prolactin, is probably to blame. It is not a serious condition and usually disappears after taking the medications prescribed by the gynecologist.
However, it also happens that the discharge from the nipple is stained with blood. In this case, you should go to the doctor immediately, it may be a sign of breast cancer. Equally disturbing is the discharge of brown or green color – most often it indicates a harmless cyst, but it can also be caused by cancer.
In addition to the changes felt in self-examination, changes in the appearance of the breast may also be a symptom of breast cancer. A disturbing symptom is changes in size. If both breasts have enlarged, it is most likely the result of hormonal changes or weight gain and there is no need to worry. What is worrying, however, is the enlargement of only one breast.
All changes in the shape of the breast should be observed. If you see protruding nodules or, on the contrary, cavities, urgent contact with a doctor is needed .
Other signs of breast cancer are skin wrinkles and discoloration appearing on the skin.
Skin infiltration and ulcers testify to the advanced stage of development of breast cancer. One of the skin symptoms is also the occurrence of the so-called orange peel (in inflammatory breast cancer).
The late stage of breast cancer or relapse of the disease is evidenced by satellite nodules – these are small skin thickenings that develop in close proximity to the primary tumor focus.
Remission and progression in cancer
Lymphadenopathy Lymphadenopathy is a characteristic symptom of breast cancer and sometimes the first symptom with which patients report to the doctor.
Unfortunately, the pain is not a symptom of early breast cancer, but only advanced cancer. It appears late. If the pain appeared at the beginning, it would prompt many women to visit the doctor earlier and would probably affect the early detection of breast cancer and better prognosis.
Remember, however, that breast pain is a very common female ailment and generally does not indicate breast cancer.
Symptoms of inflammation
Symptoms of breast cancer that indicate inflammation (swelling, redness, warmer skin and pain) do not bode well. They point to the so-called inflammatory type of breast cancer, which is extremely aggressive. However, this type of cancer is quite rare.
Of course, inflammation does not have to be associated with cancer. A common cause of breast inflammation is stagnation of food or blockage of the milk ducts.
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
The basic diagnostic tests for breast cancer are mammography and breast ultrasound . Mammography is more often intended for women over 40 years of age, and breast ultrasound for younger women. However, these two studies are also treated additionally. In case of disturbing results of mammography or ultrasound, the doctor may order a biopsy or excision of a lump in the breast, followed by a histopathological examination. The basic examination in the detection of breast cancer, however, is self-examination at home.