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Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer symptoms vary widely — from lumps to swelling to skin changes — and many breast cancers have no obvious symptoms at all.

According to the American Cancer Society, any of the following unusual changes in the breast can be a symptom of breast cancer:

  • swelling of all or part of the breast

  • skin irritation or dimpling

  • breast pain

  • nipple pain or the nipple turning inward

  • redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin

  • a nipple discharge other than breast milk

  • a lump in the underarm area

These changes also can be signs of less serious conditions, such as an infection or a cyst.

Although breast cancer symptoms vary widely, many breast cancers have no obvious symptoms at all.

In some cases, a lump may be too small for you to feel or to cause any unusual changes you can notice on your own. Often, an abnormal area turns up on a screening mammogram (X-ray of the breast), which leads to additional testing.

In other cases, the first sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass in the breast that you or your doctor can feel. A lump that is painless, hard, and has uneven edges is more likely to be cancer. But sometimes cancers can be tender, soft, and rounded. 

Performing a monthly breast self-exam is the best way of noticing any changes in your breasts. And it’s important to get any breast changes checked out by a doctor as soon as possible. 

If youre older than 40 or have a high risk of developing breast cancer, you should also have an annual mammogram and a physical exam. The earlier breast cancer is found and diagnosed, the better your chances of successful treatment.

— Last updated on August 23, 2022, 1:04 PM

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