Breast cancer often goes undetected because symptoms may not appear until the cancer is advanced. Because of this, women should have routine screenings, such as mammograms, and conduct self-exams on a regular basis.
Symptoms of breast cancer can be different in each woman. A woman may experience any number of symptoms, such as lumps in the breast, swelling, a rash or skin changes. It is also possible to have no symptoms at all. Some of these symptoms can also signal other conditions, many less serious than breast cancer.
There are, however, a number of signs that may appear and should signal the need for medical attention:
Breast pain in itself does not necessarily indicate a reason to seek medical attention, especially if you are experiencing breast pain in both breasts. If there is pain in one breast, or if the pain is persistent or continues to increase, you should speak to your doctor.
Many women develop cysts in their breast and this does not necessarily indicate breast cancer nor does it raise the risk for cancer. However, if cysts begin to change or increase in size, you should consult your doctor. Cysts can make it difficult to do a self-exam and because of this, women with cysts may be referred to mammograms more often than those without.
Paget’s disease is a type of breast cancer that begins with a rash on nipples or breast. If a rash is persistent or comes back after treatment, it could be a sign of Paget’s disease and should be treated. Your doctor may recommend a biopsy. When Paget’s disease is caught and treated early, there is a good chance of complete recovery.
Nipple discharge can be normal. Signs that should be seen by a doctor include nipple discharge that contains blood, nipple discharge from only one breast, nipple discharge that is new or unexplainable.
Lumps sometimes appear as part of the menstrual cycle. This is considered fibrocystic change and may appear a few days before your period begins and disappear after your period ends. These lumps may also appear more often during peri-menopause.