According to researchers, 252,710 new cases of breast cancer are likely to be reported in the US alone in 2017 (1). Breast cancer largely affects women and has killed 20.5% per 100,000 of these women as per the statistics of 2014. Cancer is a disease in which there is an abnormal growth of tissues.
The breasts are a series of interlocked lobules and milk ducts enveloped in a thick layer of fatty tissues, and cancer mostly develops in these lobules (lobular carcinoma) and ducts (ductal carcinoma). This deadly disease occurs in five stages – it initiates as Stage 0 (non-invasive) and then develops into Stage I, II, III, and IV consecutively. Doctors say that breast cancer can be cured if it is diagnosed properly in Stages 0, I, and II. Obesity, alcohol addiction, late/no childbirth, side effects of (un)intentional radiation, hereditary causes, and even lack of proper exercise puts you at a greater risk of breast cancer.
You might be doing a regular self-examination of your breasts – your left hand on your right breast and your right hand on your left, searching for any odd lumps on them. But, did you know that though nearly 80% of cancers could be diagnosed by lumps, no lumps will show up as symptoms in the rest 20 % of breast cancer formations? Hence, it is high time we are educated that lumps are NOT the only symptom of breast cancer. Read more to find out the other symptoms.
1. Itchy, Red Skin
A Dark Patch Beneath Your Breasts: Beware if you find a dark patch beneath your breasts that is growing in size and itching really bad. Don’t just blame your tight brassiere. It could be the symptom of breast cancer and not just an irritation on your skin because of low airflow.
Scaly Skin: If the skin on your breasts feels rough and scaly, it could be a symptom of breast cancer. Your hydrating moisturizers might not be able to soften that scaly skin.
Warmth And Redness On Breasts: If you feel a sense of unbearable heat and intriguing redness on your breasts, they could be cancerous. Never ignore these symptoms.
Peau d’ Orange: This is not at all as exciting as the name sounds. The channels inside your breast might get blocked due to cancer, resulting in your breast skin looking like an orange peel. Your skin would also turn strangely ruddy.
Paget’s Disease Of The Breast: This disease would appear as eczema with redness and itching and also flaking of skin around the nipples.
Dimpling On Your Breasts: If you see a dimpling on your breasts, rush to the gynecologist to get it examined immediately.
2. Abnormality In Nipples
Inverted Nipples: There are chances that a lump could be formed inside your nipples, which alters the shape of your nipple completely, making it look inverted. Such lumps cannot always be felt. Do not forget to check the shape of your nipples when you do a self-examination for lumps in the mirror. Reports say that more than 7% of the breast cancer patients reported some change in the nipple as symptoms.
Discharge From The Nipples: Nipples are meant to discharge milk post pregnancy. Most women ignore checking their nipples, and this is where the problem lies. Gently squeeze your nipples and check if you experience abnormal pain there as part of the routine self- examination. Also, check if you have something that resembles blood or puss oozing out from them. Beware especially when only one nipple shows such discharge. Not all discharges are symptoms of cancer, but it is always good to have our doubts cleared.
3. Swelling And Size Fluctuations
Lumps In The Armpits: Most of us check only for lumps on breasts, but lumps in the armpits or around the collarbone, accompanied with severe pain, could also be a symptom of cancer.
Swelling On The Breasts: A lump might be forming inside, and your breasts may feel heavy and swollen. Sometimes, hormonal changes can also cause a mild swelling, but if it persists, do not hesitate to go to the doctor. Also, check if there is any abnormality in the size of your breasts.
These atypical symptoms, as suggested by the UK–based National Cancer Research Institute, might be detaining the proper diagnosis of breast cancer in women (2). This detainment could cost the women their lives because by the time it is diagnosed, this malignancy could have developed into Stage III or Stage IV. Joseph Meyer, one of the world’s best breast surgical oncologists, says an early diagnosis could lead to better treatment.
Wait a second… don’t panic, because not all breast size changes could be cancer. For instance, your breasts increase in size during your monthly cycle because of water retention and/or the side effects of oral contraceptive pills. As there are lots of hormonal connectors in your breasts, these may decrease in size due to the estrogen drop at menopause. There are even a hundred purely normal reasons for your breasts to feel lumpy. To set yourself free from such doubts, book your gynec appointment today!