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Symptoms of Breast Cancer

When breast cancer first develops, a woman does not typically experience any symptoms of breast cancer. Early breast cancer does not typically cause any pain either.

What to Look For

When the symptoms of breast cancer do develop, the first sign is usually a lump in the breast tissues. Eighty percent of all women who develop breast cancer will discover a lump on their own. In addition to a palpable lump, any thickening of the skin of the breast or surrounding areas may be a sign of breast cancer.

In the early stages of breast cancer, the lump often moves freely under the skin when manipulated. In the later stages of breast cancer, this lump often adheres to the skin or chest wall, making the lump immovable. A good way to determine the "movability" of a breast lump is to stand before a mirror and raise both arms. If the breast skin puckers or shows any abnormalities from the other breast, these differences may be the symptoms of breast cancer.

In more advanced stages, the symptoms of breast cancer can include swollen bumps or sores on the skin. In some cases, the skin over a lump will look leathery and dimpled. The skin's texture may become "peau d'orange" which means that it takes on the texture of an orange, minus the color. The skin may develop pitting or ridges as a result of breast cancer.

The lymph nodes in the armpit area and under the collar bone may also harden in a patient with breast cancer. These are also usually painless, but may feel a bit tender.

Inflammatory breast cancer, a more rare type of cancer, is characterized by different symptoms of breast cancer. This condition often causes the affected breast to become swollen, red, and warm, as if it were infected. The affected breast often becomes noticeably larger in a short period of time, the nipple may turn inward or produce discharge, and the skin may change its texture as described above. A lump is not typically present in patients who develop inflammatory breast cancer.

Symptoms of Other Disease or Problems

While small scattered lumps in the chest, particularly in the outer and upper regions of the breast area, are typically not symptoms of breast cancer, they may be a sign of another breast disease called fibrocystic breast disease. If you are concerned about any changes in your breast area or surrounding tissues, it is important to speak with your doctor.

Breast pain is not one of the more reliable symptoms of breast cancer. When a woman develops a cancerous breast lump, it may or may not be painful. Breast pain without a lump is usually not one of the symptoms of breast cancer.

If you, or a loved one, experience any suspected symptoms of breast cancer or any other unusual changes in the breast tissue or surrounding areas, it is important to seek medical attention. Early detection and treatment is a patient's best chance for beating breast cancer. It is also smart for women of all ages to conduct a self-breast examination every month. A medical professional can instruct you on how this examination is performed. They can also address your questions and concerns about the symptoms of breast cancer.