You’ve found a lump in your breast. Or there’s swelling in your armpit. Perhaps your nipples are itchy, you’ve got a stubborn rash, or your breasts are sore and painful.
Could this be cancer?
Luckily, the answer to that scary question is, "Probably not."
The vast majority of breast issues don’t involve cancer. From normal changes involved with your monthly cycle, to harmless (though potentially painful) cysts, to simple infections and skin rashes, changes you notice in your breasts can be irritating and painful, but rarely are they cancer symptoms.
Still, the #1 rule for maintaining breast health is this: notice any changes, track them, and decide whether you need to see a doctor right away, or can wait and see if they resolve themselves.
The following posts will help you identify what your particular symptom or symptoms might mean; and help you determine whether to see a doctor right away, or whether it’s OK to wait awhile and see if the issue resolves itself on its own.
First, some general articles dealing with breast cancer fears. If you think you might have a breast cancer symptom - and you’re scared to death - the following posts will help you calm down enough to look at your situation realistically.
-If You Think You Might Have Breast Cancer, Read This
-Are You Afraid of Breast Cancer? Don’t Be
-Is This Normal? A Teen Guide to Breast Development
-Dear Sister: A Message to Young (Under-20) Readers
Breast changes can involve anything from discovery of a lump or significant swelling, to simply "a funny feeling." Check out your symptom in the posts below.
For other changes, including itchiness, swelling, and rashes:
-Beyond Lumps: Changes in Breast Appearance, Itchiness, and Skin Changes
-What Can I Do About My Itchy Breasts?
If you’ve been reading up on symptoms, and you suspect inflammatory breast cancer:
-Inflammatory Breast Cancer Awareness: Breast Cancer Doesn’t Always Start with a Lump
-Rash, or Inflammatory Breast Cancer - Should I Panic, or Not?
-Inflammatory Breast Cancer - Self-Diagnosis by Computer
For pain or tingling:
-The Strange Case of the Vibrating Breast
-"Why Do My Breasts Hurt?" A Guide to Breast Pain
At some point you may decide you need to see a doctor. Here’s some helpful information about various ways to screen for breast cancer - and how to pay for them.
Breast Self Exam: No Longer Necessary?
Your First Mammogram: Easy as 1-2-3
MRI: Do You Need One?
No Health Insurance? Breast Cancer Screening on a Budget
Guide to Free Mammograms for Underserved Women
PJ Hamel is senior digital content editor and food writer at King Arthur Flour, and a James Beard award-winning author. A 16-year breast cancer survivor, her passion is helping women through this devastating disease. She manages a large and active online survivor support network based at her local hospital and shares her wisdom and experience with the greater community via HealthCentral.com.