Breast Cancer Symptoms

Breast Cancer Symptoms

Breast Cancer Symptoms
Breast cancer symptoms may not appear before a screening shows cancer, but there are some signs you'll want to get checked. A breast lump is a common first sign of cancer, perhaps found during a breast self-examination. Other symptoms include a change in the breast's appearance or shape, swelling, lumps in the underarm area and nipple discharge. Know what signs and symptoms could be cause for a doctor visit to check for breast cancer with expert advice from Sharecare.

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    A , Pharmacy, answered
    The physical symptoms of HER2-positive breast cancer can be the same as for most types of breast cancer. If your doctor thinks you might have breast cancer, he or she is likely to take a biopsy (a sample of your breast tissue). If the biopsy shows you have cancer, a laboratory test can determine whether or not the cancer is HER2-positive -- meaning that the cells contain abnormally high levels of the HER2 protein, which can cause them to grow and spread faster than other types of cancer cells.

    Many breast cancers are diagnosed before a woman notices any symptoms, through tests like mammograms. But you should call your doctor right away if you notice any of the following possible symptoms of breast cancer:
    • a new lump or mass in your breast or armpit
    • swelling of all or part of a breast 
    • breast skin that appears red, irritated, scaly and/or dimpled
    • breast or nipple pain
    • unusual nipple discharge (possibly bloody or pus-like yellow or green fluid)
    • nipple retraction (turning inward)
    • bone pain, weight loss, arm swelling or skin ulcers (symptoms of more advanced breast cancer)

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    Screening mammograms may help detect breast cancer before it causes any symptoms. However, screening mammograms may miss breast cancer that is already present. Invasive breast cancer symptoms may include:
    •  A lump or mass in the breast.
    •  Swelling of all or part of the breast, even if no lump is felt.
    •  Skin irritation or dimpling.
    •  Breast or nipple pain.
    •  Nipple retraction (turning inward).
    •  The nipple or breast skin appears red, scaly or thickened.
    •  Nipple discharge.
    •  A lump or swelling in the underarm lymph nodes.
    Knowing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer is essential to early diagnosis.
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    See a doctor if you notice changes in your breast that could signal cancer - even if you've recently had a normal mammogram. Symptoms include lumps and changes in breast skin, shape, or size. All women should conduct monthly breast self-exams and see a health care provider annually for a manual breast exam. The earlier you catch breast cancer, the more likely it will be cured.

    However, in its earliest stages, breast cancer shows no symptoms. Women over age 50 should get regular mammograms, which can catch breast cancer before symptoms appear.

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    Redness on the breast is most often caused by a breast infection, but if it does not improve after treatment with antibiotics, it may be a rare sign of breast cancer. Any change in appearance of the skin of the breast should be evaluated by your physician. A breast infection may be associated with breastfeeding and a blocked duct, but may also occur in women who are not breastfeeding, as well.

    If the redness is associated with a hot feeling to the touch, or pain and tenderness, this is another indication of infection. After examining your breast, your doctor will often evaluate it further with ultrasound or mammogram, and then determine if antibiotics should be taken. If the redness is caused by a breast abscess, this may be treated by draining the abscess with a needle, then antibiotics.

    Other causes of breast redness include rash, eczema with development of a skin infection, skin allergy, broken blood vessels or an infected skin lump such as sebaceous cyst. A sebaceous cyst is most often a discrete lump in the skin. These skin cysts are common in the skin of the breast, and can become infected.

    Less commonly, redness in the breast may be a sign of breast cancer. If the redness is not improving after treatment with antibiotics, your doctor may recommend a small skin biopsy to be sure it is not red due to cancer.
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    Metastatic breast cancer symptoms depend on the part of the body to which the cancer has spread. Sometimes, metastatic disease may not cause any symptoms.
    • If the breast or chest wall is affected, symptoms may include pain, nipple discharge, or a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm.
    • If the bones are affected, symptoms may include pain, fractures, constipation or decreased alertness due to high calcium levels.
    • If the lungs are affected, symptoms may include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, coughing, chest wall pain or extreme fatigue.
    • If the liver is affected, symptoms may include nausea, extreme fatigue, increased abdominal girth, swelling of the feet and hands due to fluid collection and yellowing or itchy skin.
    • If the brain or spinal cord are affected, symptoms may include pain, confusion, memory loss, headache, blurred or double vision, difficulty with speech, difficulty with movement or seizures.
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    A answered
    In most cases, nipple discharge is nothing to worry about. It could be due to cysts in the breasts, non-cancerous tumors or infection, among other conditions. Certain medications can lead to nipple discharge, as can consuming high amounts of caffeine, smoking and hormone therapy.

    Generally, a discharge from both breasts, or one that is yellow, green, blue or black is due to benign causes. But if you have a clear, colorless or bloody discharge, particularly if it is only coming from one breast and spontaneous, you should be concerned.

    In about 10-15% of cases, nipple discharge, particularly crusty nipples, may be a sign of breast cancer. In fact, one form of breast cancer called Paget's disease is marked by a crusty or scaly nipple sore or a discharge from the nipple.

    Bottom line: If you have any discharge from your breast, and you are not pregnant, nursing or have recently breastfed a baby, see your doctor for a complete evaluation.
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    Some common ailments breast cancer patients experience include weight loss, weight gain, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea and constipation. Also, breast cancer and its treatment can bring about metabolic changes that cause or aggravate symptoms of diabetes.

    Your dietitian can recommend diet modifications based on your breast cancer treatment regime, micronutrient deficiencies and nutrition impact symptoms.

    The following are ways breast cancer nutrition therapy can help combat the side effects of treatment:
    • If you experience nausea, your dietitian may recommend that you eat more cold foods because they don’t have a strong odor, as well as lower-fat items since fats take longer to digest.
    • If you experience constipation, your dietitian may encourage you to eat fiber-rich foods and increase your fluid intake.
    • To combat fatigue, your dietitian may recommend high-protein snacks and small, frequent meals rather than large meals.
    • To help prevent breast cancer recurrence, your dietitian may encourage you to eat more cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, kale, cabbage).
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    Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) has no accompanying symptoms. Your doctor detects this form of breast cancer by examining a mammogram, or an image of the inside of your breast. Your breast image includes microcalcifications, or small clusters of calcium, that have an unusual shape.

    This cluster could be either DCIS, invasive, or fast growing cancer, or atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH), which is not breast cancer, but just a marker on women who are at increased risk for developing breast cancer. To determine exactly what the cluster is, your doctor will need to take a biopsy.

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    A , Surgery, answered

    In general, if a needle biopsy shows atypical hyperplasia, surgery is indicated to remove the area. While needle biopsies are extremely accurate, studies have shown that in approximately 5-20% of cases where atypia is seen, there may be a small cancer in that area. Surgery is usually performed to get a larger area of tissue out with a clear margin. Having atypical hyperplasia increases the subsequent risk of developing a breast cancer, so continued surveillance is indicated as well.

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    A , Plastic Surgery, answered
    The most common screening tools for breast cancer after self breast exam (SBE) are mammograms and MRI. Mammograms should be performed at the age of 40 and every 1-2 yeasrs subsequently. Patients with strong family diathesis for breast cancer may require early mammograms or MRIs. 

    Any suspicious lesion on either screening test should be followed with a tissue diagnosis by biopsy (fine-needle apsiration, core biopsy, excisional biopsy).
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