A woman’s likelihood of surviving breast cancer is greatest when the cancer is detected early. In order for the cancer to be diagnosed and treated in the early stages, it is important for women to recognize the symptoms of breast cancerso that they can promptly visit their physicians and get the necessary treatment.
One of the most common symptoms of breast cancer is a lump in the breast. Often, the lump is not painful and it is only detectable to the touch. That is why women are encouraged to conduct monthly self exams so that they can detect any changes in the way their breasts feel to the touch. The lump may be felt in the breast or in the underarm area. While a hard lump with uneven edges is a symptom of breast cancer, it is not a diagnosis of cancer. It could be a symptom of a noncancerous condition. However, any time a lump is detected, a woman should promptly make an appointment with her physician.
A lump is the best known symptom of breast cancer but it is not the only symptom. Breast cancer patients can present with or without a lump and with or without one of the following symptoms:
- Discharge: there may be a clear, yellow, green or bloody discharge from the nipple;
- Change in size or shape: there may be a change in the size or shape of the breast or nipple;
- Change in appearance: part of the breast may appear red, puckered, dimpled or swollen. Some experts compare this change to the skin of an orange.
- Pain: as breast cancer moves to a more advanced stage, a woman may begin to experience breast or bone pain
- Arm swelling: can also be a symptom as breast cancer becomes more advanced; and
- Weight loss: that is not explained by a diet or another reason can be a symptom of advanced breast cancer.
Sometimes, women who develop breast cancer do not exhibit any early symptoms of the disease and often do not realize that they are sick until the disease is at a later stage.
Often, women get very nervous when they detect a lump or another symptom of breast cancer. However, if a woman has to deal with breast cancer than symptoms are welcome signs because they can alert the woman to the need to see her doctor. Sometimes, those symptoms will actually indicate a condition other than breast cancer such as an infection or a cyst. Other times, the symptoms will indicate breast cancer and the patient can begin to get the treatment necessary to save her life.