Early detection of breast cancer leads to better survival rates. And while finding a lump in their breast is the most common way women diagnosed with breast cancer learned they had the disease, there can be other signals. If you experience any of the following seven signs of breast cancer, contact your physician:
- Orange-peel skin. This is called “peau d’orange” by doctors, and it literally means “the skin of an orange.” It can be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer, where the breast swells and the skin takes on almost a pitted appearance, and it happens when breast cancer cells invade the skin on your breast.
- Dimpling of skin. Any new dimpling on your breast is cause for concern. What does this look like? Check for an indentation of the skin, similar in size and shape to a dimple on your cheek. This could signal a tumor pulling from underneath your skin.
- Inverted nipple. After a lump, nipple abnormalities are the second most common presenting symptom of breast cancer. Be wary of an inverted nipple (one that has always pointed outward and suddenly changes to point inward) or nipples that suddenly change direction.
- Large lump in your armpit. A lump under the armpit can represent a swelling in your lymph node, the glands that help your body fight infection. You may have had swollen lymph nodes before, but they often grow larger when they swell in response to cancer.
- Swelling or redness. Often mistaken for a breast infection, swelling or redness can also be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer, especially if that redness covers more than a third of the breast and feels warm along with the swelling.
- Nipple discharge. Discharge from one of your nipples, especially if it’s bloody, could be an early symptom of breast cancer. Don’t panic, though. Nipple discharge is commonly caused by a non-cancerous lump in the milk duct. Have any discharge checked by your doctor to be sure.
- Itchy nipples. Itchiness, flaking or crusting on or near your nipple can be a sign of Paget’s disease, a rare form of breast cancer often mistaken for skin irritation. The National Cancer Institute says most women with Paget’s disease often have at least one tumor in the affected breast.