Breast cancer is the leading type of cancer, along with skin cancer, diagnosed in women worldwide.
Anyone can develop this cancer, and it is still not clear what causes it. However, certain factors put you at a higher risk.
Such factors include increasing age, a family history of breast cancer, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, excessive drinking, exposure to radiation, hormone replacement therapy during menopause, ionizing radiation, menstruation starting at an early age and having children late in life or not at all.
Although it is more common among women, men can also get breast cancer.
Women who get annual mammography screenings are much less likely to die from breast cancer than those who do not.
Mammograms make it easier to detect this cancer at an early stage, allowing more effective treatment. However, mammograms are not perfect every time.
Knowing the possible warning signs and changes in the breasts that may signal cancer, you’ll be able to act promptly. It is better to get checked by your doctor and have a false alarm than to miss diagnosing cancer as early as possible.
Here are some important warning signs of breast cancer.
1. Lump in the Breast or Armpit
Feeling a lump in your breast or armpit may be the first warning sign of breast cancer. Such lumps are often hard and painless, though some may be painful. A lump under the armpit may feel hard or thick and dense as compared with the armpit on the other side.
Do not panic when you notice a lump, as it is not always cancerous. A few common causes of breast lumps are hormonal changes in the body, a breast infection and fat necrosis (damaged tissue).
It is important to have your doctor check out any new or suspicious lumps on your breasts to determine the cause.
2. Red or Swollen Breasts
When breasts hurt, most women think it is due to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and when breasts feel hot or appear red, they usually suspect an infection. Swollen breasts with soreness or redness might even be a sign of breast cancer.
A tumor located underneath a breast can push on tissues, making the breast swollen and sore. In some cases, the swelling is more prominent under the arm or under the collarbone.
If you have this symptom for more than a week, be sure to see a doctor.
3. Nipple Discharge
Discharge from your nipple without any squeezing or touching of the breast may make any women wonder. Other than breast milk, any kind of nipple discharge can be a warning sign of breast cancer.
When a tumor starts in the milk ducts just under or around the nipple, it may cause irritation and infection, leading to discharge.
If you notice any nipple discharge, particularly clear or bloody, get it checked by your doctor. Such discharge can also be due to an infection or other condition that needs treatment.
4. Pain in the Breast or Chest Area
If you have an ache, sharp stab or pain in the breast or chest area, it is not a good sign. Sharp pain that comes and goes or a mild electric sensation that you may experience from one breast to another may be a sign of breast cancer.
A tumor located directly behind the nipple or in one of the milk ducts often causes pain and discomfort in the breast.
Though not necessarily a warning sign of cancer, pain in the breast or chest area can be due to other serious health issues that may need treatment. At times, breast pain can be due to hormonal changes in the body, birth control pills, poorly fitting bras and stress.