Certain changes in the breast can be early signs of breast cancer. Knowing what these changes look like and what it feels like can help people access the right treatment as soon as possible. Understanding the different parts of the breast and their function can help to be more aware of any changes or abnormalities
This article looks at the warning signs of breast cancer, who is at risk, and what to do if you detect one or more of these signs.
When most people think of breast cancer detection, they think of a lump in the breast. This is a possible warning sign, but it is not the only one. It’s not the first to show up either.
Other common signs of breast cancer include:
lumps inside the breast or in the armpit area
changes in the size and shape of the breasts
pain in a specific area that does not go away
prominent veins on the surface of the breast
a discharge from the nipple that comes on suddenly
a sore or rash on the nipple
breast swelling, redness, or darkening
dimples on breast skin
inversion of the nipple or other parts of the breast.
That said, these same changes are often the result of benign breast conditions. They do not necessarily mean the presence of cancer. However, if a person notices these changes, they should see a doctor to be sure. There are different types of breast cancer and they can affect individuals in different ways.
Specific signs of inflammatory breast cancer
It is a rare but aggressive type of cancer that can manifest differently from other types.
Symptoms include Trusted Source:
pink, reddish-purple, or bruised appearance
ridged or pitted skin
in some cases, a palpable tumor
a rapid increase in breast size
breast heaviness and tenderness
a burning sensation
swollen lymph nodes in the collarbone or armpit area.
Inflammatory breast cancer tends to show up at a younger age than other types of cancer. Doctors sometimes get the diagnosis wrong because it may look like an infection, trauma, or some other problem.
Is it cancer?
The same warning signs of cancer can also mean other benign conditions. It is therefore important to know how to recognize the signs that may indicate the presence of cancer and those that are not.
It is not uncommon for breasts to be lumpy, as breast tissue often has a lumpy texture. The lumps can vary greatly and do not always indicate the presence of cancer, especially if the sensation is the same in both breasts.
However, a woman should see her doctor if she notices:
changes in breast texture that are not due to the menstrual cycle
a harder lump that looks different from the rest of the breast
a lump that is not present in the other breast.
usually have jagged edges
are usually painless
are usually hard
However, the lump can also be soft, rounded, and tender.
People tend to see a doctor when they are worried about a new growth. However, there may be no lump at all, or the lump may be too small to feel. In fact, a mammogram or other type of screening method may be the first sign of a lump. If the mammogram reveals the presence of a lump, the doctor may suggest additional tests, such as an ultrasound or a biopsy, to confirm the diagnosis.
Benign conditions that can cause bumps or bumps to form include the following:
Fibroadenomas are made up of glandular and connective tissue. They are very common and are not cancerous. Most types do not increase the risk of breast cancer. Fibroadenomas can measure up to 1.5 cm in diameter and have a smooth, rubbery appearance. They can also move under the skin.
Discharge from the nipples may result
pressure on the nipples
of an infection
A woman should see her doctor if she has:
a discharge that occurs without the nipple being squeezed
a discharge in one breast and not the other
discharge containing blood
Whether or not the discharge is related to cancer, it may require treatment.
Normal changes in the breasts
Hormonal changes can occur at different stages of life and lead to bumps, shape changes, and other changes that are not due to cancer. For example, puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can lead to breast changes due to changes in estrogen and progesterone levels in the body.
Some people are more likely than others to develop breast cancer. If they notice any of the above symptoms, they should see a doctor.
Factors that increase the risk are:
a personal history of breast cancer or high-risk lesion
genetic factors, such as BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene mutation
chest radiation exposure during childhood
Each case is different. Knowing a personal or family history of breast cancer and discussing it with a doctor can help a person know what to expect.
What to do in case of symptoms
Anyone who notices a change in their breast without a clear cause should see a doctor, especially if the change is in only one breast. In many cases, routine screening will reveal any significant changes. Breast cancer is very easy to treat if diagnosed at an early stage. Regular screening can help.
Here are four recommendations for screening women at average risk of breast cancer:
For women at average risk:
Women between the ages of 40 and 49 should ask their doctor if they should start having routine mammograms.
Women aged 50 to 74 who are at average risk should have a mammogram every two years.
Women at average risk should stop screening when they reach age 75 or if they expect to live another 10 years or less.
Women of all ages at average risk should not have a clinical breast exam to screen for breast cancer.
Breast anatomy and cancer risk
Knowing the different parts of the breast can help understand how cancer forms and spreads.
A woman’s breast is made up of
body fat (adipose tissue)
The female breast is mainly made up of adipose tissue, that is, body fat. Adipose tissue extends from the collarbone to the rib cage, passing through the armpits. Adipose tissue also contains nerve cells and blood vessels. It plays an important role in storing and releasing energy.
Lobes, lobules and milk ducts
A woman’s breast is usually made up of 12 to 20 sections called lobes. Each of these lobes is made up of smaller areas of milk glands, called lobules. The milk ducts connect the lobes and lobules and carry milk to the nipple. Breast cancer is most likely to affect the lobes, lobules, and milk ducts.
Lymphatic and vascular system
There is a lymphatic and vascular network inside the breast. The vascular system is made up of blood vessels and the lymphatic system of lymph channels. These two systems work together to transport blood and fluids to and from the breast tissue to the rest of the body. If breast cancer enters these systems, it can travel throughout the body, increasing the risk of it spreading or recurring. Lymph nodes are bean-shaped groups of cells found throughout the lymphatic system. These are immune cells that act as filters. This is the first place where breast cancer is likely to spread.
With current treatment options, a person diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer has a 99% chance of living at least another 5 years. To ensure early diagnosis, it is important to recognize any changes in the breasts and report any concerns to a doctor. Most breast changes do not indicate cancer, but it is always worth checking out.