If you experience sharp pain and some tenderness in the breast, the first thing you wonder is if it might be a serious condition. One of the first things that make you visit your doctor is a breast lump. Breast cancer has various signs and symptoms in different people. Even though early-stage breast cancer does not show any symptoms, the chances of surviving are high if detected on time. A lump in the breast or your armpit is a major symptom. Other signs and symptoms might include pain, skin changes, discharge from the nipple, and a sunken nipple.
If you experience sharp pain and some tenderness in the breast, the first thing you wonder is if it might be a serious condition. One of the first things that make you visit your doctor is a breast lump.
Breast cancer has various signs and symptoms in different people. Even though early-stage breast cancer does not show any symptoms, the chances of surviving are high if detected on time. A lump in the breast or your armpit is a major symptom. Other signs and symptoms might include pain, skin changes, discharge from the nipple, and a sunken nipple.
Here are the most common signs of breast cancer
Before you notice or feel a lump, you might begin to swell. Swelling is a sign that cancer might have spread to the lymph nodes. It is vital to notify your doctor if you notice any swelling.
You experience a lump that does not disappear. In most cases, this is the first sign. This lump is only seen on the mammogram before you feel or see it.
Lumps and swelling do not hurt but may result in a prickly feeling.
You might see an indented part on the breast due to an invisible tumor that you cannot even feel.
You might notice some changes in your breasts. This may be a change in the contour, texture, size, and temperature.
You will begin to notice some changes in your nipple, such as it pulls inward, dimpled, burns and itches, and is sore.
You are likely to observe unusual discharge from your nipple, which might be thick or thin, and color may range from clear to milky to green, yellow, or red. Women who are breastfeeding produce a milky discharge, but if they observe any other discharge from their nipple, they should visit their doctor. Nipple discharge may signify cancer in some cases, and at times it is noncancerous.
Under your skin, you might notice a marble-like part that feels completely different from the other parts of your breasts.
There exist several types of breast cancer, and they are outlined below with their symptoms.
Ductal carcinoma is the most popular kind of breast cancer. It starts in the ducts. Out of five new breast cancer cases, one of them is DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). This means that the cancer cells exist in your ducts; however, they have not spread to the nearby tissues. You will not experience any symptoms with this cancer type, but it might cause a bloody discharge or a breast lump.
LCIS (Lobular carcinoma in situ) is not detectable with a mammogram and does not cause any symptoms. This breast cancer type is found by your doctor when they are performing breast biopsy for other reasons. If you have LCIS, your breast cells appear abnormal when observed on a microscope.
It is rare for inflammatory breast cancer to cause a lump, and it does not appear on a mammogram.
This type of breast cancer has the following symptoms:
• Red, itchy, and swollen breast that feels tender
• The breast's surface takes on a pitted or ridged appearance, which is the same as an orange peel.
• Burning, aching, or heaviness in one breast
• Inverted nipple
• One breast appears larger.
• If you self-exam, you will not feel any mass
• The lymph nodes under your arm or near the collarbone are swollen.
• After taking antibiotics, the symptoms do not get resolved.
Because this type of breast cancer does not cause a lump, it is very hard to detect it through self-exam, mammogram, or clinical exam. Even ultrasounds might fail to detect it; however, it causes changes that you can easily observe on the breast's surface.
Inflammatory breast cancer symptoms tend to develop very fast, and the progression of the disease is quick. If you notice any sudden change in your breast's appearance or texture, make sure you immediately report it to your doctor. For breastfeeding or pregnant women, swelling, redness, soreness, and itchiness are signs of infection like mastitis, which is curable with antibiotics. In case you are not nursing or pregnant and you develop the above symptoms, the doctor should run a breast cancer test.
Metastatic cancer's symptoms mainly depend on the body parts affected by cancer and the stage it is in. At times, this type of cancer might not cause symptoms.
• In case your bones have been affected, you may experience fractures, pain, constipation, and reduced alertness because of high levels of calcium.
• If your chest wall or the breast gets affected, you will experience pain, a lump in the breast or under your arm, and nipple discharge.
• If you have tumors in your lungs, you will experience difficulty breathing, chest wall pain, extreme fatigue, and coughing.
• Suppose the spinal cord or brain gets affected by the cancer cells. In that case, you will experience confusion, pain, headache, memory loss, double or blurred vision, seizures, and difficulty with speech and movement.
• If the cancer cells affect the liver, you might experience extreme fatigue, nausea, swollen hands and feet, heightened abdominal circumference, and itchy or yellowing skin.
Even though papillary carcinoma might not be noticeable, having a mammogram regularly might detect its growth. Here are the common symptoms of this type of cancer.
• Mass: This type of cancer is detected as a lump or cyst of two or three cm that you can feel with bare hands during self-examination.
• Nipple discharge: This type of cancer occurs under your nipple, causing a bloody discharge.
Even though this cancer does not differ from other types of breast cancer, you can pinpoint some unique features, including the following.
• More aggressive: It tends to recur and spread after treatment. Following therapy, this risk goes down after some years.
• Receptor status: If you have this type of breast cancer, tests for progesterone, estrogen, and HER2 appear negative, meaning that conventional cancer treatment will not be effective. The treatment options for this cancer include targeted therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation.
• Cell grade and type: This type's cancer cells are basal-like. This means that the cells look like the basal cells that line the breast ducts. Being higher grade means they do not look like normal and healthy cells.
Less than 2% of breast cancer cases are angiosarcomas. It begins in the cells lining the lymph nodes and the blood vessels. The symptoms of this type of cancer include the following.
• A region that appears purple
• Lump in the breast
• Pain in a single area
• After a bump or scratch, your skin bleeds easily.
This kind of cancer occurs together with ductal carcinoma. Paget's disease affects your areola and nipple skin. The symptoms include the following.
• Yellow or bloody discharge from your nipple
• Inverted or flat nipple
• Itching or burning
• Crusted, red, and scaly nipple skin
If breast cancer spreads to other body tissues, then it is infiltrating or invasive. Here are the symptoms of invasive breast cancer.
• One breast looks different compared to the other.
• Skin sores
• A lump in the armpit or breast
• Swelling in the breast
• A skin rash
• Pain in one part
• Small and hard lymph nodes that stick to the skin or they stick together.
The symptoms of breast cancer for men is similar to the ones women experience. They include the following.
• The breast tends to thicken.
• You feel painless lumps in your breast.
• The breast skin and the nipple will change. You might experience things like dimpling, redness, and puckering.
• Production of discharge from the nipple
After a successful treatment, breast cancer might recur. Here are some of the symptoms that the doctor advises you to watch out for.
• A swelling or lump under the arm, on the chest, and above the collarbone
• Numbness or pain in the shoulder or arm
• Swelling in the arm
• Difficulty when swallowing
• Constant pain in the chest
Breast cancer might result in symptoms such as lumps and changes in your skin. Even though other conditions such as infections, cysts, dermatitis, and eczema can cause changes in your breasts, it is important not to rule out breast cancer and visit the doctor for a check-up. If you visit the doctor for diagnosis and evaluation, they will help know if the breast changes you are experiencing are a matter of concern. If you notice any of the signs discussed above, do not hesitate to reach out to your doctor.