May 28, 2013

Early Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer, the most common cancer in women, occurs as a result of uncontrolled growth of cells that begins in the tissues of the breast. According to the statistics, breast cancer affects one in eight women in the U.S. and it is the second most common cause of cancer death in women in the U.S. Various health organizations run a number of programs to increase the awareness of people, regarding the early symptoms of breast cancer, how the cancer is curable and how it is treated. Early detection of breast cancer can help save millions of precious lives.

Early Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
  • Swelling and a feeling of warmth in a breast.
  • Tenderness around the nipple.
  • Sore breast
  • Itchy breasts or nipples
  • A rash on a nipple or surrounding area
  • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area (axillary area).
  • A breast lump which is non-tender.
  • A remarkable change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering in the skin of the breast
  • New pain that develops in a spot in a breast.
  • An inward turned nipple.
  • Discharge (fluid) from the nipple, especially bloody discharge.
  • Red and inflamed breast
  • Scaly, red, or swollen skin of the breast, nipple, or areola (the dark area of skin around the nipple). The ridged skin may look like the skin of an orange.
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Breast ulcer as a later symptom of breast cancer.
  • A lump found in the area above the collarbone (supraclavicular area) which indicates that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
Although breast cancer in women is quite common, men may also suffer from this type of cancer. If a man notices a lump in a breast, or discharge from the nipple, or changed appearance of the breast or nipple (retraction, ulceration), he should immediately contact his physician. Breast cancer accounts for about 1% of all cancer deaths in men.

Types of Breast Cancer

There are different types of breast cancer such as ductal carcinoma (most common form), lobular carcinoma, estrogen receptor-positive cancer or ER-positive cancer, HER2-positive breast cancer, invasive or infiltrating breast cancer, etc. The uncommon types of this cancer include inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) and Paget's disease of the nipple. Different types of symptoms are noticed in different types of breast cancer. For instance, IBC, a comparatively rare and aggressive cancer may exhibit following symptoms:
  • Red and swollen / inflamed breast
  • Constant itching in breast skin
  • Warmer, harder, firmer breast
  • Sudden increase in breast size
  • Inwardly turned nipples
  • Swollen lymph nodes under arm or above collarbone
It has been noticed that IBC usually strikes younger women and diagnoses of IBC account for 1 - 5% of all cases of breast cancer in the U.S.

Significance of Regular Testing

Studies show that genetic disposition and hormonal factors are the primary risk factors for this cancer. If you have breast pain, you should consult your doctor immediately. Even though you don't experience breast pain or lump, you can have a regular mammogram and a clinical breast exam by your health care professional since it is possible that you may not experience any pain or discomfort during earlier stages of the cancer. Mammography, CT scan, a biopsy and an ultrasound test help detect abnormalities in breasts. Self-exam of breasts is the best way to find out the changes in breasts. For those who have already undergone the treatment for breast cancer, it is equally important and necessary to monitor and report any new signs and changes, as they might be the symptoms of recurrence. Breast cancer is the most common cause of death in women between the ages of 45-55. Therefore, women should take necessary precautionary measures (should not delay in seeing a doctor) to prevent the cancer.


Breast cancer treatment varies according to the type of the cancer and stage of the cancer. It involves various options such as surgery (lumpectomy, removing the affected part of the breast or mastectomy, removal of the affected breast), radiation therapy, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and chemotherapy. The treatment for breast cancer may vary from one individual to another, depending upon the stage in which the cancer is diagnosed, type and severity of the symptoms, spread of cancer, overall health of the patient, etc.

It is possible to get rid of breast cancer, when detected in earlier stages. Women and men should not neglect any changes in the breast(s). Any negligence can worsen the situation. You should examine your breasts regularly. A physician can guide you about how to examine a breast. There is indeed a need for more awareness regarding the symptoms and treatment of breast cancer. New vistas of treatment can be made available to the patients suffering from the disease. It would help save several lives.


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