Breast Cancer and Symptoms

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women. It’s also one of the most common cancers overall, with 1 in 8 women being diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her life. Breast cancer is usually thought of as just affecting older women who have been exposed to significant amounts of radiation during childhood and adolescence (due to breast feeding). However, younger girls and women can develop breast cancer as well!

Breast cancer is a type of cancer that develops from breast tissue. Symptoms of breast cancer may include a lump in the breast, a change in breast shape, dimpling of the skin, fluid coming from the nipple, or a red scaly patch of skin. In those with distant spread of the disease, there may be bone pain, swollen lymph nodes, shortness of breath, or yellow skin.

Many people don’t know they have breast cancer until their primary care doctor notices something unusual about their breasts—like an unexpected lump or asymmetry—and then performs further tests to determine if it’s malignant (cancerous).

The Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

The signs and symptoms of breast cancer vary depending on how far the cancer has spread. Some people with early cancers may have no signs or symptoms at all.

The most common types of breast cancer are:

  • Breast cancer in which cells grow abnormally (called invasive breast carcinoma)
  • Cancer that starts in the ducts or lobules of your breasts (called lobular carcinoma)

If you have any questions about what to do if you think you might be having a problem, talk to your health care provider as soon as possible.

Breast lumps are often discovered by accident when a woman (or her doctor) feels a lump during a routine examination. About two-thirds of all lumps in the breasts are not cancerous. A mammogram can help determine if a lump is noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant).

Breast cancer is the most common type of female cancer, affecting almost one in eight women worldwide and killing more than 500,000 women every year.

“A woman’s breasts undergo many changes over the course of her life: they grow during puberty and pregnancy; they make milk after childbirth; they lose their firmness with age; and sometimes they develop lumps or other abnormal tissue (abnormal growths). Not all abnormal tissue growths means you have breast cancer — in fact, most such growths aren’t even malignant.”

Breast lumps are common during a woman’s lifetime. They can be caused by breast changes, such as growth or shrinkage; inflammatory diseases such as mastitis (inflammation of the breast); Paget’s disease (a type of skin cancer); or benign tumors.

Not all breast lumps are cancerous. Most often, a lump appears suddenly and without pain or other symptoms. But sometimes lumps develop slowly over time and may cause pain in the area where they’re located before they grow larger and become noticeable enough to be felt by others around you. If you have one or more palpable (a soft lump that can be felt easily) masses in your breasts, don’t ignore them! It’s important to see your doctor right away so he/she can check for any possible signs that could indicate that these lumps might actually be malignant (cancerous).

If you feel even one small lump or thickening in your breast tissue that doesn’t go away within one menstrual cycle (about one month), it’s time to see your doctor for an evaluation.

Lumps are common, but not all lumps are cancer. In fact, only about 10% of all breast lumps will turn out to be cancerous. Most women with a breast mass do not have a serious disease called invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC).

If you have a lump that doesn’t go away within three months after the first appearance of symptoms, please call your doctor right away so they can perform an examination and check the tissue under a microscope to see if there is any evidence of malignancy present


We hope this guide has helped you understand what breast cancer is and how to detect it. If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor. Remember that there are many different types of cancer, and each situation requires a different approach. We recommend that people with any type of breast lump schedule an appointment with their doctor as soon as possible so they can be screened for cancer early on in the process.

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