Although breast cancer generally shows no symptoms in the early stage, timely detection can turn a story of breast cancer into a survivor’s tale.
A breast lump is the most common presenting symptom. But for about 1 in 6 women with breast cancer, the broad spectrum of symptoms doesn’t include a lump.
In this article we’ll explore the early signs and symptoms of breast cancer, what happens next, and where to find support.
Early signs of breast cancer
Early on, a person may notice a change in their breast when they perform a monthly breast exam or when minor abnormal pain doesn’t seem to go away. Early signs of breast cancer to look for include:
- changes in the shape of the nipple
- breast pain that doesn’t go away after your next period
- a new lump that doesn’t go away after your next period
- nipple discharge from one breast that’s clear, red, brown, or yellow
- unexplained redness, swelling,skin irritation, itchiness, or rash on the breast
- swelling or a lump around the collarbone or under the arm
A lump that’s hard with irregular edges is more likely to be cancerous.
Later signs of breast cancer
Later signs of breast cancer include:
- retraction, or inward turning of the nipple
- enlargement of one breast
- dimpling of the breast surface
- an existing lump that gets bigger
- an “orange peel” texture to the skin
- poor appetite
- unintentional weight loss
- enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit
- visible veins on the breast
Having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have breast cancer. Nipple discharge, for example, can also be caused by an infection. See a doctor for a complete evaluation if you experience any of these signs and symptoms.