If You Think You Might Have Breast Cancer, Read This

PJ Hamel Health Guide June 22, 2008
  • If you’re reading this, you almost certainly fit one of two profiles: either you have breast cancer (or are a caregiver for someone who has it); or you’re afraid you have breast cancer. You guys with cancer, you’ve heard plenty from me over the years; continue to read if you like, b...

21 Comments
  • Anonymous
    Elise
    Dec. 28, 2013

    Thank you for writing this, it has made me feel a little better. Earlier today I noticed pain in my right armpit that almost feels like a lump. Ever since I noticed it I can't stop worrying about it. I've had pain in my armpits before once or twice but I can't remember if it felt like a lump like this or not. My breasts are normal besides...

    RHMLucky777

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    Thank you for writing this, it has made me feel a little better. Earlier today I noticed pain in my right armpit that almost feels like a lump. Ever since I noticed it I can't stop worrying about it. I've had pain in my armpits before once or twice but I can't remember if it felt like a lump like this or not. My breasts are normal besides one being bigger than the other. Could this just be a cyst or pain from an ingrown hair from shaving? If it's nothing I don't want to bother my mom because I am a bit of a hypochondriac when it comes to stuff like this and have gone to the doctors countless times for stuff that turned out to be nothing. I'm only 15 and I know that it's not likely for women in their 20's or under to get breast cancer but it still happens right? No one in my family that I know of besides a great aunt on my dads side has or has had breast cancer so it doesn't run in the family but I don't know. Thank you for reading this and I hope to hear back from you soon.

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Dec. 28, 2013

      Elise, please don't worry about breast cancer - at your age, the chance of you having it is far less than 1 in a million. Please read our message to teens for more about those statistics, and why it would be so super-unlikely for you to be diagnosed.

       

      The pain could be due to a lot of different issues; if it's kind of an ache, without you being able to...

      RHMLucky777

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      Elise, please don't worry about breast cancer - at your age, the chance of you having it is far less than 1 in a million. Please read our message to teens for more about those statistics, and why it would be so super-unlikely for you to be diagnosed.

       

      The pain could be due to a lot of different issues; if it's kind of an ache, without you being able to see anything or feel a lump, then it's possible you have some kind of infection that's settled into one of the lymph nodes under your arm. Since this is the case, you'd want to mention it to your mom. Keep your eye on it; if it fades and goes away, then clearly it's taken care of itself. If it gets worse, then you might want to have it checked out. 

       

      This could also simply be part of your regularly monthly cycle; women often get sore breasts just before their period, and since your breast tissue extends up and into the area under your arms, this could be pre-menstrual soreness.

       

      Bottom line: if the pain continues for more than a month, then see a doctor; there's no reason for you to be in pain needlessly. But in the meantime, please don't worry about cancer, OK? As I mentioned - the odds are totally on your side. Take care - PJH

    • Anonymous
      Elise
      Dec. 28, 2013

      Wow thank you so much :) you have made me feel so much better. I will definitely take your advice. Take care!

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Dec. 29, 2013

      We're always here for you, Elise - have a great rest-of-the-weekend! PJH

  • Anonymous
    Kimber, J.
    Dec. 11, 2013

    Hello Ms. Hamel, :) 

     

    I hope you can answer a few questions for me or give me some advice in this situation. I turned 26 this year and a few months ago (the last week in September i think) I briefly felt one morning a sharp shooting pain in my underarm. It was strange because that morning I had an older friend from church who was going in to get...

    RHMLucky777

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    Hello Ms. Hamel, :) 

     

    I hope you can answer a few questions for me or give me some advice in this situation. I turned 26 this year and a few months ago (the last week in September i think) I briefly felt one morning a sharp shooting pain in my underarm. It was strange because that morning I had an older friend from church who was going in to get a mammogram which later turned out to be a bad breast infection) The pain was not severe at all, just sudden and quick.  It would only happen a few times a day at most. In the next few days I did for the first time examine my breasts (which are on the very small side) and noticed that my left breast is lumpier and bigger than my right. I'm not sure if it has always been like that or recently changed. It seems that there are similar lumps on my right breast but the ones in my left are defnitely bigger and more defined. Also, I have a rib bone (i think) that runs along right below my left breast but not my right. I can tell it's bone because it runs along under my breast towards my side/back. 

     

    Strangely, I cannot feel the lumps very well when I have my arm lifted above my head (which is part of a self-breast exam I think). But it's definitely there in my left breast. Before I felt the pain in my underarm for the first time I actually had been going through some personal issues that caused quite a bit of stress in my life. Getting better until all of this started. :)  So once I found the differences in my breasts, I started to fight anxiety and worry... i couldn't leave my left breast and underarm alone--checking them over and over again. I noticed a small lymph node in my underarm and thought it was swollen. I'm still not sure if it is. It hasn't grown and it's pretty small so I'm surprised I even noticed it. In my right underarm I can feel some nodes as well so I hope it's just normal for me... 

     

    Later on in October, I started to notice that my breast would get warm at times. Not consistently, but enough that it caused me some concern. Along with that, when I examined the skin around my right breast it had turned slightly red/pink. (I showed my mom and she thought it was because I had irritated the skin) It's still there. The warm feeling is almost like what I used to get years ago--i had a  lot of inflammation in my legs and joints. It was definitely stress-induced. I don't have it anymore though. 

     

    In November for 2 weeks or so all of this went away. I had been determined to stop thinking about it which helped i think. Seems like once I started thinking about it again it all just came back. Earlier in all of this I had a day or two where my neck pain (which I get when I'm really stressed) came around. Starting a few days ago, I started to feel some aching in my left arm. When I lift it up to use it (i'm right handed by the way) it gets tired and slightly sore. 

     

    That about sums up my list of symptoms. I apologize for the novel! I hope it didn't take up too much of your time. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on any of this. 

     

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Dec. 11, 2013

      Hi - I'm sorry you're having to go through all of this; sounds very stressful. We're not doctors here, and can't diagnose; but I can suggest you read our post on fibrocystic change, a condition that mirrors some of your symptoms. It's a harmless (though sometimes painful) condition a lot of women your age experience.

       

      I think the stress you're undergoing,...

      RHMLucky777

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      Hi - I'm sorry you're having to go through all of this; sounds very stressful. We're not doctors here, and can't diagnose; but I can suggest you read our post on fibrocystic change, a condition that mirrors some of your symptoms. It's a harmless (though sometimes painful) condition a lot of women your age experience.

       

      I think the stress you're undergoing, as a result of these symptoms, is probably making the situation worse. Your best bet will be to get past this stress – and to me, that means going to a doctor; getting a referral to a breast specialist; and hopefully getting some reassurance from the specialist that your breasts are normal, and you can stop worrying.

       

      So, pick up the phone and get the process started, OK? I think being proactive will help you start to feel better. Take care - PJH

       

  • Anonymous
    concerned
    Sep. 06, 2013

    Hello, 

    I am a 40 yr old woman with no history of breast lumps. I have never had any children & I had a total hysterectomy at 30 yrs of age, due to a large fibroid that had wrapped around my uterus. Although my ovaries were not removed, I began having symptoms of menopause immediately post-op: severe hot flashes, profuse sweating, night sweats, &...

    RHMLucky777

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    Hello, 

    I am a 40 yr old woman with no history of breast lumps. I have never had any children & I had a total hysterectomy at 30 yrs of age, due to a large fibroid that had wrapped around my uterus. Although my ovaries were not removed, I began having symptoms of menopause immediately post-op: severe hot flashes, profuse sweating, night sweats, & weight gain. A few months before I turned 40, I found a lump in my left breast & given my risk factors, I had a mammogram & U/S. A breast specialist told me that it was normal for a woman my age & that my lump shouldn't concern me, as he could tell by looking that the lump was benign. Now a few months later, I have several more lumps in that breast & now havea couple in my right one. With my medical history & never having had a lump before now...is this rapid growth of lumps normal?

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Sep. 06, 2013

      I'm sorry, we're not doctors here, simply well-read breast cancer survivors, so we can't really diagnose what might be going on. That said, multiple lumps involving both breasts doesn't sound like a typical breast cancer symptom; it sounds more like fibrocystic change which, since you still have your ovaries, is a possibility.

       

      I'm surprised yoru...

      RHMLucky777

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      I'm sorry, we're not doctors here, simply well-read breast cancer survivors, so we can't really diagnose what might be going on. That said, multiple lumps involving both breasts doesn't sound like a typical breast cancer symptom; it sounds more like fibrocystic change which, since you still have your ovaries, is a possibility.

       

      I'm surprised yoru doctor says he can tell the initial lump is benign, without positively identifying it as a cyst; it's actually not possible to be certain a solid lump is bening without doing a biopsy. If I were you, I'd move beyond your GP to a breast specialist, especially since a specialist can address all the possible causes for what you've described. So ask your GP for a referral to a specialist, OK? And if s/he balks, at least request a mammogram in order to get a clearer picture of that initial lump. Best of luck to you - PJH

    • Phyllis Johnson
      Health Guide
      Sep. 07, 2013
      The doctor who told you the initial lump isn't cancer might have been basing his conclusion on the ultrasound image. He would have been able to tell whether it was a harmless fluid-filled cyst or a solid lump from the ultrasound. As PJ says there is no way to know for certain about a solid lump without a biopsy. Assuming the first lump is not dangerous, you...
      RHMLucky777
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      The doctor who told you the initial lump isn't cancer might have been basing his conclusion on the ultrasound image. He would have been able to tell whether it was a harmless fluid-filled cyst or a solid lump from the ultrasound. As PJ says there is no way to know for certain about a solid lump without a biopsy. Assuming the first lump is not dangerous, you will still need to go back to the doctor to have each new lump evaluated. I know that's a hassle, but when I was having numerous cysts, my doctor told me that the only dangerous thing about them was that they might lead me to ignore a lump that turned out to be cancer. So let the doctor know about the new lumps and make sure it is confirmed by ultrasound that they are just cysts.
  • Anonymous
    danielle
    May. 15, 2013

    hi my names danielle

     

    this is about my sister i am worried about her, she has lumps in both breasts sometimes they will go under her arm pit. if her breast get pushed on or hit it sometimes gives her a shooting pain and makes her crouch over it puts her in tears or nearly does she tells me they get itchy, feels like they swell, discomfort, skin peels...

    RHMLucky777

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    hi my names danielle

     

    this is about my sister i am worried about her, she has lumps in both breasts sometimes they will go under her arm pit. if her breast get pushed on or hit it sometimes gives her a shooting pain and makes her crouch over it puts her in tears or nearly does she tells me they get itchy, feels like they swell, discomfort, skin peels off her nipples, she has been to several doctors and one referred her to a specialist all they said is it would be hormone disfuction except the lumps are there constantly they dont come and go, the specialist refused to investigate because of her age. this has been happening for five years now and it just keeps getting worse. she is 20 i understand that because of her age it is very unlikely she does have breast cancer but it is still possible rare but possible, and nobody will actually get down to the bottom of it because of her age. just need to know what you think and what she should do next?

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      May. 16, 2013

      Danielle, it sounds like the doctors are right; numerous lumps in both breasts, lumps that are painful, sounds like fibrocystic change – which can be severe, but isn't life-threatening. 

       

      Breast cancer is possible at age 20; and yes, it's possible one of these lumps might be a tumor. But it's so rare; and the symptoms, at this point, don't...

      RHMLucky777

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      Danielle, it sounds like the doctors are right; numerous lumps in both breasts, lumps that are painful, sounds like fibrocystic change – which can be severe, but isn't life-threatening. 

       

      Breast cancer is possible at age 20; and yes, it's possible one of these lumps might be a tumor. But it's so rare; and the symptoms, at this point, don't suggest breast cancer, so I'm not surprised no one is pushing for further testing. Since she's been to a breast specialist (right?), and s/he isn't worried about breast cancer – then there's really nothing more you guys can do, beyond get a second opinion from another specialist; and ask one of her doctors how to deal with fibrocystic change. Some women find relief by staying away from caffeine; and there may be other things she can try, but that would be for a doctor (again, a breast specialist) to recommend. Good luck - I hope she finds some relief soon. PJH

    • Phyllis Johnson
      Health Guide
      May. 16, 2013

      Danielle, the doctors should have done an imaging test called an ultrasound to make sure those lumps are cysts.  If they did that, they can be very sure the lumps are not cancer.  If these lumps are large, the doctor can drain the fluid out of them to reduce the pain.  It is a simple procedure done in the office of either the radiologist or surgeon....

      RHMLucky777

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      Danielle, the doctors should have done an imaging test called an ultrasound to make sure those lumps are cysts.  If they did that, they can be very sure the lumps are not cancer.  If these lumps are large, the doctor can drain the fluid out of them to reduce the pain.  It is a simple procedure done in the office of either the radiologist or surgeon.  The fact that these lumps are painful suggests that they are not cancer.  Yes, it is unlikely that a 20 year old would have breast cancer, but the doctors should be giving other reasons besides her age for believing these lumps aren't cancer.  They should be able to say that the shape and/or or texture don't feel like breast cancer lumps and the ultrasound shows that they are harmless fluid-filled cysts.

  • spree21
    Dec. 17, 2012

    my name is spree. i have a bad feeling that tomorrow i am going to get the news hat i have bc. my symptoms are: a lump i have had for a few years has started to get bigger in these last few months, my nipple has flattened, and where the lump is has recently started to itch, also my breast has been getting bigger and more firm in one area. i am kind of freaking...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    my name is spree. i have a bad feeling that tomorrow i am going to get the news hat i have bc. my symptoms are: a lump i have had for a few years has started to get bigger in these last few months, my nipple has flattened, and where the lump is has recently started to itch, also my breast has been getting bigger and more firm in one area. i am kind of freaking out. i am 21 years old btw.

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Dec. 17, 2012

      Spree, a lump that you've felt for a few years is probably not breast cancer; once you can feel a cancerous lump, it's likely to cause additional symptoms much more quickly than you describe. Women your age very seldom get breast cancer; however, they frequently experience fibrocystic change resulting in cysts, which can change size more readily than a...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      Spree, a lump that you've felt for a few years is probably not breast cancer; once you can feel a cancerous lump, it's likely to cause additional symptoms much more quickly than you describe. Women your age very seldom get breast cancer; however, they frequently experience fibrocystic change resulting in cysts, which can change size more readily than a tumor, and which could probably flatten out your nipple and produce itchiness due to their growth. I'm glad you're getting this looked at; and I hope it's not breast cancer. But if by some rare chance it is, please come back here; we can help you. Take care - PJH 

       

       

       

       

       

  • Anonymous
    Anika marie padua
    Oct. 27, 2012

    good day! uhmm... I'm 20 y/o and I noticed that my nipple on my left breast is inverted when I wear a bra.... could it be a possibility that I have Breast CA??? 

     

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Oct. 27, 2012

      It's possible, Anika - but very improbable. If your nipple is only inverted when you wear a bra, and "pops" right out once you've had your bra off for awhile, I'd suspect your bra might simply be too confining/tight. If your nipple stays inverted permanently; and if this is a change from normal, then you'd want to see a doctor to find out what's causing this,...

      RHMLucky777

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      It's possible, Anika - but very improbable. If your nipple is only inverted when you wear a bra, and "pops" right out once you've had your bra off for awhile, I'd suspect your bra might simply be too confining/tight. If your nipple stays inverted permanently; and if this is a change from normal, then you'd want to see a doctor to find out what's causing this, OK. Take care - PJH

  • Susan Walsh
    Aug. 06, 2012

    Hi, My name is Susan. Breast cancer runs in my family. My breast has been hurting for 2 weeks now and there is nothing that bothers me more. I haven't been able to lay on my belly at night and they hurt all the time. I have been wearing a bra to see if it helps but without failure. They hurt more with one on. I can't touch them at all and my left one hurts...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    Hi, My name is Susan. Breast cancer runs in my family. My breast has been hurting for 2 weeks now and there is nothing that bothers me more. I haven't been able to lay on my belly at night and they hurt all the time. I have been wearing a bra to see if it helps but without failure. They hurt more with one on. I can't touch them at all and my left one hurts more then the right one. I have felt something in the lower side of it and it does feel like a lump. What should I do? I have a mammagram on Friday so do I just wait until them to see whats going.

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Aug. 06, 2012

      Susan, with breast pain in both breasts, it's highly unlikely that the pain is related to breast cancer, whose symptoms are usually painless. Pain such as you describe is usually the result of hormonal issues, such as fibrocystic change. A lump might be a fibroadenoma or cyst; some cysts can become very painful indeed, and need to be drained. At any rate, I'm...

      RHMLucky777

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      Susan, with breast pain in both breasts, it's highly unlikely that the pain is related to breast cancer, whose symptoms are usually painless. Pain such as you describe is usually the result of hormonal issues, such as fibrocystic change. A lump might be a fibroadenoma or cyst; some cysts can become very painful indeed, and need to be drained. At any rate, I'm glad you're seeking treatment for this. If I were you, I'd call the radiology department ahead of time, and ask about getting a mammogram while you're in a fair amount of pain; they may advise you to take some ibuprofen ahead of time. Best of luck - I hope you get to the bottom of this soon. PJH

    • Phyllis Johnson
      Health Guide
      Aug. 06, 2012
      Susan, it is probably perfectly safe to wait until Friday. As PJ says, pain in both breasts is not likely to be breast cancer. A mammogram now might give better information while you have the pain. We have all had the experience of finally seeing the doctor only to be describing how the problem felt last week. A call to move up the appointment might help pinpoint...
      RHMLucky777
      Read More
      Susan, it is probably perfectly safe to wait until Friday. As PJ says, pain in both breasts is not likely to be breast cancer. A mammogram now might give better information while you have the pain. We have all had the experience of finally seeing the doctor only to be describing how the problem felt last week. A call to move up the appointment might help pinpoint the problem and solution faster, but don't worry about a delay until Friday being dangerous.
  • Anonymous
    lucie
    Jun. 24, 2008

    Thank you so much for this post... Breast cancer runs in my family so obviously I follow this very closely and tend to be rather hypochondriac when it comes to any sort of pain or soreness in my breasts...  It's refreshing to read something like this post to put everything in perspective again... Not that I will stop getting checked regularly, but mentally,...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    Thank you so much for this post... Breast cancer runs in my family so obviously I follow this very closely and tend to be rather hypochondriac when it comes to any sort of pain or soreness in my breasts...  It's refreshing to read something like this post to put everything in perspective again... Not that I will stop getting checked regularly, but mentally, this is exactly what I need to read more often!  Thanks!

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Jun. 24, 2008

      Lucie - that's exactly the reaction I hoped readers would have. Ever-vigilant - but NOT ever-stressed! Thanks - PJH