Categories: Breast Cancer

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

There are various types of breast cancer and each type show a variety of symptoms. The most recognized once are a lump or mass in the breast tissue. Women should go to the doctor if they find any painless lump or any other changes visible on the breast or nipple.

The signs of breast cancer vary from person to person. That being said, let us take a look at some of the early & common warning signs of breast cancer:

  • Apparent differences like swelling or redness in one or both breasts
  • Alteration in the size or shape of the breasts
  • Changes in the appearance of one or both nipples (retraction of nipples)
  • Nipple discharge, other than breast milk
  • Unusual pain in/around the breasts
  • Lumps nodes or swellings on or inside of the breast

Although these are the usual signs of breast cancer, it may be noted that these can be caused due to other benign conditions too. For that matter, skin conditions like eczema can cause changes to the skin texture on the breast or some infection in the breast can also cause swelling of lymph nodes. It is advised to undergo early evaluation if any of these signs are the cause of concern.

Now, let us take a look at some of the different types of breast cancer and their symptoms:

Invasive Breast Cancer

Following are the symptoms of Invasive Breast Cancer:

  • Unusual lump/mass in the breast
  • Unusual swelling of all/part of the breast
  • Pain in the breast or nipple
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Red, scaly, or thickened appearance of the nipple/breast skin
  • Unusual discharge from nipple other than milk discharge
  • Unusual swelling or lump in the underarm lymph nodes

Ductal Carcinoma in Situ

Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DICS) usually doesn’t show any symptoms. In the majority of cases, DICS can only be detected with the help of a mammogram. Rarely in this type of breast cancer, a woman may have nipple discharge or feel a lump in the breast.

Lobular Carcinoma in Situ

In Lobular Carcinoma in Situ (LCIS), is a precancerous condition. LCIS cannot be detected through a mammogram as it doesn’t cause any symptoms. It is usually detected while doing a breast biopsy.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) seldom causes a lump in the breast, although, the changes caused by IBC can be seen with the naked eye. Due to the complexity of this cancer, a breast self-exam, ultrasounds, clinical breast exam or even a mammogram may not be able to detect it. Soreness, itchiness or redness are often signs of breast infection found on pregnant or breastfeeding women which can be treated with antibiotics. Due to the quick & rapid progression of this cancer, if a woman is not pregnant and develops any sudden changes, she should report to the doctor immediately. Let us see the common symptoms of IBC:

  • Red, swollen, irritated breast that is tender to the touch
  • Rigid/pitted look on the surface of the breast
  • Heaviness, burning or aching in one breast
  • The visible difference in the size of the breasts
  • An inverted nipple (facing inward)
  • No mass is felt with a breast self-exam
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm and/or above the collarbone
  • Unresolved symptoms even after a course of antibiotics

Metastatic Breast Cancer

Metastatic Breast Cancer is stage IV or advanced breast cancer. It means that cancer has metastasized, or spread, to other organs in the body, and its seriousness is often determined by its stage. If cancer spreads to the breast/chest wall it may give rise to symptoms like pain, nipple discharge, lump or thickening of the breast or underarm.

Dr. Mekhala Swethadri, Associate Consultant, Radiation Oncology, Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Mysore

Narayana Health

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