Women's Health

Breast Cancer: Signs, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

Breast Cancer

Key Takeaways

  • The most common presentation of breast cancer is a new hard lump.
  • Spontaneous, unilateral, blood-stained, nipple discharge is indicative of breast cancer.
  • Early diagnosis and treatment has a better prognosis.

Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer related deaths in women. If breast cancer is diagnosed early, you are more likely to have a better outcome. So, it is always best to know the common signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Most women suffering with breast cancer may not show any symptoms at all especially during the early stages.

The following signs and symptoms that are indicative of breast cancer.

  • A new lump in the breast – This is the most common first sign of breast cancer, especially if the lump is hard, painless, immobile, and has irregular margins. A painful lump usually is a sign of a benign breast disease, but it should be checked by a doctor.
  • Nipple changes. – In some people, the nipple is pulled inwards (nipple retraction), but in a person who had normal outward-pointing nipples that suddenly become inverted should be examined by a doctor.
  • Nipple discharge – Discharge from the nipples can be caused by many conditions, especially benign breast diseases. However, nipple discharge from one breast is a sign that it could be due to breast cancer, especially if it is a spontaneous discharge and is blood stained.
  • A lump felt in the armpit – Sometimes a hard lump may be felt in your armpit, and it is often a sign of breast cancer that has spread to the axillary lymph nodes.
  • Signs of inflammation – Redness, warmth, and itchiness of the breast may be a sign of an inflammatory breast cancer.
  • Peau d’orange – If your breast has an orange peel appearance, it is an indication that there is fluid built up within the breast, which is often a result of breast cancer.
  • Ulceration around the nipple is a rare sign of a type of breast cancer known as Paget’s disease.

Late signs and symptoms

Usually late signs and symptoms appear when the cancer increases in size and spreads to the rest of the body, including other organs. The following are common late presentations:

  • Bone pain
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Jaundice
  • Headache
  • Fractures of the bone
  • Double vision

Most often these signs and symptoms are not due to breast cancer, but if you have any of these signs, it is important that you get yourself checked by a healthcare provider.

Breast cancer has a better prognosis when it is treated early in the disease. Women are advised to undergo routine screening procedures to detect breast cancer early. Monthly self-breast examinations, clinical examinations, and mammographies are recommended for routine screening procedures.