Healthy Living

Early Signs of Breast Cancer

Oct 31 2023

Learn what the early signs of breast cancer look like.

Everyone’s breasts are different, and yours change throughout your life. Sometimes though, certain changes may be signs of cancer or another illness.

It’s important to know what these changes can look like. The earlier you notice them, the easier it can be for your health care provider to diagnose and treat them. And knowing some of the first signs and symptoms of breast cancer may help you see changes in your body to discuss with your provider.

Breast lumps

A lump that appears in your breast or underarm is one of the most common early signs of breast cancer. Breasts can have a naturally bumpy texture. This is especially true in younger people because their breast tissue is denser.

When performing a breast self-exam, you might feel breast lumps that aren’t anything to worry about. However, you might also find something that a doctor should look at.

You may feel:

  • A hard lump or mass that feels like a pebble
  • Something inside your breast that feels different from before
  • An area of your breast that feels different from the other tissue

If you discover these symptoms, make an appointment with your health care provider. They can do tests to determine the cause of lumps or abnormal areas you find.

Nipple discharge

Fluid coming from one or both of your nipples usually isn’t something to worry about — especially if you’re breastfeeding. Discharge can be your body’s natural reaction when you squeeze your nipples. But in some cases, it’s a warning sign of breast cancer.

You might notice discharge that:

  • Looks bloody or milky
  • Only comes from one breast
  • Leaks even when you don’t squeeze your breast

Let your doctor know if you experience these types of nipple discharge. They can be signs of a health condition other than breast cancer, too. Your doctor can diagnose the condition and help you learn what treatment you might need.

Visual changes

The way your breasts look and feel on the outside can change in the early stages of breast cancer. You’ll often notice these changes simply by looking at your breasts. Or, one of your breasts might feel different than it usually does inside.

These changes that are common symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • Swelling in one or both breasts
  • Raised veins showing through breast skin
  • A sore or rash on your breast or nipple
  • Constant pain in a specific area of your breast
  • Red, darkened, dimpled or puckered breast skin
  • One or both of your nipples pointing back toward your body, or inverting

If you see these changes in your breasts, remember that it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. But it’s still very important to visit your doctor to find out exactly what’s happening.

And sometimes, nothing

With some types of breast cancer, people who have breast cancer have no symptoms at all.

This is why it is so important for women to get their regular mammogram.

This health screening is a type of X-ray image. It lets health care providers see pictures of the inside of your breast tissue. They can then use these pictures to tell whether your breast tissue is healthy or if the tissue has any abnormal lumps or other spots that could be cancerous.

We suggest the following recommendations for receiving either type of mammogram:

  • If you are under age 40 with a family history of breast cancer, talk to your doctor about all your risk factors. You may need to start mammography at an earlier age.
  • Women ages 40 to 49 may benefit from regular mammograms. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and when you need to get screened.
  • Women ages 50 to 74 may benefit from regular mammograms. Screening is recommended at least every two years.

Now that you know the early signs of breast cancer, you can be on the lookout for them.

Learn more about breast cancer as well as the cancer care services we provide at Mercy Health.

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Sharon Miller, St. Ritas WSUC

I can't stress enough how important breast it is to get your MAMOGRAM, I was diagnosed 2016, bilat. mastectomy. after surgery I was told they had found more cancer deeper in breast. Yes I had strong family history. However I did do self breast exams, regular mammograms, educated myself on proper foods to eat. HOWEVER.... the Lord has His plan for me. Was everyday a good day? NO.. Was I happy with the outcome. NO. Was I depressed? YES. Was I Self conscious? YES. Was I angry? YES ! I tried to put this in the Lord's hands. He gave me different people to show up at my door to help me in different ways. My family had my back. Understanding when I had bad days. Loved me no matter what. The Lord put His hands around me and lifted me up. He healed me in many ways. I feel now I am reaching out to those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I can understand what there going through. What they can expect. Listen to their battle. Be there to encourage, support, educate, and love on them. We all have purpose in life. If the Lord guides me in this direction. Then I will follow Him.
October 05th, 2018 | 7:04pm

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