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  • Writer's pictureSurviving Breast Cancer

9 Early Warning Signs of Breast Cancer You Shouldn’t Ignore

Breast cancer casts a shadow over the lives of countless people across the globe, affecting those with the disease and their loved ones. The National Breast Cancer Foundation paints a heartrending picture, forecasting that nearly 289,000 women and 2,800 men will confront the devastating diagnosis of invasive breast cancer in 2023.

Diagnosing breast cancer early, before it spreads, greatly amplifies a person’s chances of successful treatments. Early warning signs are crucial in offering a pivotal advantage in early detection and treatment. Continue reading to explore some of the most common warning signs of breast cancer you shouldn’t overlook.

1. Lumps in the Breast or Underarm

According to the American Cancer Society, one of the most common signs of breast cancer is a new lump in the breast or underarms, including any lump, knot, or hardening of the breast tissue. Lumps are often painless, and not all are cancerous, but they should be reported to a doctor immediately. Regular self-exams can aid in early detection.

2. Change in Breast Size, Shape, or Appearance

The National Breast Cancer Foundation notes that a change in the size or shape of the breast could indicate breast cancer, including swelling, thickening, shrinkage, or asymmetry, particularly if it affects only one breast.

3. Nipple Changes

In addition, nipple inversion or retraction can be a sign of breast cancer. Still, it’s essential to understand that not all cases of nipple inversion or retraction indicate cancer. Some people may naturally have inverted nipples, which can become inverted due to other benign conditions. However, certain types of breast cancer can cause the nipple to retract or invert.

4. Unexplained Breast or Nipple Pain

While pain in the breast is commonly associated with menstrual cycles, persistent pain that doesn’t align with the menstrual cycle can be cause for concern.

5. Nipple Discharge Other Than Breast Milk

Bloody, yellow, or green fluid, especially when it’s coming from one nipple, could signal breast cancer. The exception is discharge that occurs while squeezing the nipple, which is likely benign.

6. Swelling Under the Arm

Lymph nodes can swell for various reasons, but if you notice swelling in your underarm lymph nodes, report it promptly. Swollen lymph nodes are one of the top signs of breast cancer.

7. Changes to Breast Skin

Breast skin changes like redness, thickening, or pitting are listed by the American Cancer Society as a potential breast cancer sign, warranting medical attention. In addition, redness or flaky skin in the nipple or breast area can be associated with breast cancer.

A rash resembling eczema on the breast could indicate Paget’s disease of the breast, a rare type of breast cancer. See your doctor about any persisting rash.

Although not a common sign, increased visibility of veins on the breast’s surface can suggest a blockage in a blood vessel caused by a lump or increased blood supply to the breast. It’s a sign that can accompany tumor growth and indicate an underlying issue like breast cancer.

8. Itchy or Irritated Breasts

While itchiness can result from various conditions, including allergies or dermatitis, continuous itchiness should not be ignored, especially when accompanied by other symptoms.

9. Rapid, Unexplained Weight Loss

While not breast-specific, unintentional rapid weight loss can signal metastatic breast cancer, advises the National Cancer Institute. Note any inexplicable weight loss and consult your doctor.

Count On Us for Information, Resources, and Support

Understanding and recognizing the early warning signs of breast cancer can significantly affect the prognosis and treatment. Early detection can lead to less invasive treatments and higher survival rates. Always consult your doctor if you notice any changes or symptoms, and prioritize regular screenings.

Whether you’re newly diagnosed with breast cancer, are navigating survivorship, or are the loved one of someone experiencing breast cancer, you can count on to keep you informed. We provide educational information to help you better understand symptoms, testing, treatment options, surgery, etc., and podcasts that feature professionals, advocates, and caregivers who share valuable information.

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Note: This article is designed to provide general information and is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Always discuss your options with your healthcare provider.

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