It’s not without cause that cancer is called a silent killer. Most types of cancer just sneak up on you without any tell-tale signs in the initial stages. Breast cancer is the same. The few cases where breast cancer has been caught early on were because of regular breast examinations on the part of the women and men concerned. This is why you should perform a breast examination at least once a month to be aware of any changes in your breasts. As the breast cancer progresses, however, certain symptoms will indeed show up. These can sometimes be so vague that you may be tempted to dismiss it.
Early Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
It is important to catch breast cancer as early as possible as this increases your chances of a full recovery. So it pays to be alert to the earliest signs and symptoms that manifest.
- Breast cancer will usually show up in the form of lumps in the breast. A lump is not always painful. However, you may feel a prickly sensation on touching them.
- At times, you may not feel a lump exactly but you may feel a bit of a thickness when you put pressure on a certain area of the breast which differs from the feel of the rest of your breast. This may also be one of the early signs of breast cancer.
- Your armpit is an extension of your breasts on the side. So any swelling or a lump in the armpits could be a potential symptom of breast cancer.
- Any type of breast pain or tenderness should be checked up. This includes the nipples. You may have a high tolerance for pain and may define it as discomfort. If this discomfort is prolonged, then it calls for a visit to your doctor.
- A change in the appearance of the skin on the breasts can be an indication of breast cancer. In the later stages of the disease, the skin can get dimpled. This will look something like the cellulite on the back of the thighs, but will be a little more subtle. Some women may see signs of this in the initial stages too. The textural changes may also include pits, crinkles or ridges.
- The skin on the breast can get irritated and appear inflamed.
- The skin can also become thick and develop a scaly or flaky texture like when you have very dry skin.
- You may experience a discharge from your nipples even if you are not breastfeeding. This discharge can be bloody or clear.
- Sometimes, you may see a swollen lymph node around your collar bone. These too should be looked into as the tumor in your breast can cause this problem long before it grows big enough to be felt.
- The nipple can retract, i.e., turn inward.
- Itching and burning may also occur on the nipples.
- Your breasts may change shape or size as a result of the developing breast cancer.
- A change in the temperature of the breasts is also an indication of breast cancer. They may feel warm or hot to the touch when compared to the skin on the rest of the body. High temperature in the region of the chest is often a symptom of breast cancer. Menopausal women sometimes mistake these for hot flashes so this is actually a tough symptom to catch unless you are really alert.
- The color of your breasts can change too. It can start to get pink or red, basically becoming darker than is normal.
- One of your arms may swell up too.
- Sometimes, not always, breast cancer may be accompanied by weight loss. This usually happens anyway as the breast cancer progresses but can occur in the initial stages too if your body is more sensitive to changes.
The symptoms listed here can all be detected with a regular breast examination. This is why it is really important to conduct a self breast examination every month so that you learn what is normal for you, which means that you will immediately be alert to any changes.
Any lump, deformity or discoloration in the breast that did not exist before and has only recently cropped up must be investigated by a doctor. Do not hesitate to make an appointment if you notice even a hint of any of the above symptoms. It’s better to get a false alarm than to receive a terrific blow after the cancer has spread too far.