Six breast cancer symptoms that you must know

Thinking you have breast cancer, can really send you into a state of paranoia; where you start diagnosing yourself and searching Dr Google for answers. Don’t ever do that!

It is definitely normal to worry and be scared, but after checking for these symptoms and you’re still not sure, just go to the doctor. 

According to Jane Mendez, MD, surgical oncologist and chief of breast surgery at Miami Cancer Institute, “With early detection, we can have great outcomes. The five-year survival rate (at the earliest stage) is 98.5 percent.”

1.   A hard, painless lump

Having a lump is the most common and well-known symptom of breast cancer, however, not every time you have a lump means you have breast cancer. In some cases, it could be a benign cyst or harmless bumps caused by pregnancy, breastfeeding or totally normal changes according to your monthly cycle. According to Dorraya El-Ashry, PhD, chief scientific officer of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), “Some changes can be temporary, but if the lump sticks around for more than one period cycle, visit your doctor.” 

2.   Discolourated breast skin

The discolouration presents itself on the breast being red, inflamed and feeling heavy. This symptom targets older women in their 60’s and often type means this is a rare type of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer. If you’re a mom in your 30s and breastfeeding, discolored breast skin might point to mastitis which is infection of breast tissue often caused by a blocked milk duct. But if you’re a postmenopausal woman and can’t remember any kind of injury or bug bite affecting your breast, that may be a red flag. 

3.   One breast shrinks

You swear that both your breasts are full sized and voluptuous and now one is visibly…smaller?  According to Dr. Mendez, “Sometimes when there’s a tumor in one breast, the tumor pulls the skin and ligaments, which causes that shrinkage; a lot of breast tissue is fat. The cancer is eating up this fat [contributing to shrinkage].”

4.   Our breast has the texture of a golf ball

If a part of your breast skin looks dotted by small dips, that lumpiness may indicate breast cancer. The tumour may be pulling on the skin, causing weird clumps. It kind of looks like an orange peel—a symptom called peau d’orange (or “skin of the orange” in French), which may appear in inflammatory breast cancer.

5.   Upside down nipples?

Some women have very perky breast with nipples that point out; while others may have nipples that are perfectly flat or point inward – are inverted. Some women naturally have inverted nipples, which is not a sign of breast cancer, however if you notice that your nipple is no longer erect and is now inverted, then you definitely want to get that checked out.

6.   Unusual nipple discharge

Ladies the only fluid that should come out of your nipple is breast milk, period. Beyond that, nipple discharge, including bloody discharge, means a doctor visit. Nipple discharge can be caused by lots of conditions other than cancer—such as a benign growth. Still, don’t blow it off, especially if you have unexplained nipple discharge along with a lump.