Identifying signs of breast cancer early on can prevent it from spreading to other areas of the body (called metastasis).
The early stages, such as Stage 0 and I, show no signs of breast cancer. During this period the tumor is just forming and remains largely undetected in the breast. As it spreads, the tumor starts causing symptoms.
When asked, most people would agree one of the most common signs of breast cancer is the breast lump. While most lumps are not cancerous, it is often the thing that spurs a visit to the doctor.
Other signs of breast cancer, which are more telling, include:
- breast pain or nipple pain
- breast tenderness
- a new breast lump or mass that is painless and hard with irregular edges
- a new breast lump or mass that is tender, soft, and rounded
- non-milk nipple discharge (particularly blood)
- retraction of the nipple
- nipple thickening
- enlargement of one breast
- change in the size or shape of the breast
- dimpling of the breast surface
- an "orange peel" texture to the skin
- swelling (part or all of the breast, with or without a lump)
- swelling in an underarm lymph node
- skin irritation or inflammation
- skin redness, thickening, or scaliness
- vaginal pain
- unintentional weight loss
- visible veins on the breast
- decreased libido
If you experience one or more of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor. Even before you experience signs of breast cancer, ask your doctor about self-screenings and when you should start having regular mammograms.