Breast Cancer Symptoms

Finding breast cancer as early as possible gives you a better chance for successful treatment. Since early detection is so critical, every person should be aware of the symptoms and early signs of breast cancer. Any time you discover an abnormality, you should contact your healthcare professional for further evaluation.

Most people who have breast cancer symptoms and signs will initially notice only one or two, and the presence of these symptoms and signs does not automatically mean that you have breast cancer.

Common Breast Cancer Symptoms and Signs

A breast cancer symptom is something you experience, while a breast cancer sign is something that can be detected by someone other than you. The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. Other possible symptoms and signs of breast cancer include:

  • Swelling of all or part of a breast, even if no lump is felt
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk

Breast Self-Exams

Knowing how your breasts normally look and feel is an important part of breast health. Performing monthly breast self-examinations can help you more easily identify any changes in your breast.

There are three ways to perform a breast self-exam:

  1. In the shower. Using the pads of your fingers, examine your entire breast and armpit area in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center. Check both breasts each month, feeling for any lump, thickening or hardened knot.

  2. In front of a mirror. Start by visually inspecting your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms overhead. Look for any swelling or dimpling of the skin, any changes in your nipples or any changes in the contour of your breast. Then, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Look for any dimpling, puckering or changes, particularly on one side.

  3. Lying down. When you lie down, your breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Begin by placing a pillow under your right shoulder and putting your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, press the pads of your fingers around your entire right breast and armpit area in small circular motions. Squeeze your nipple and check for discharge. Repeat these steps on your left breast.

If you notice any lumps or other changes in your breast(s), contact your healthcare provider.

Importance of Breast Cancer Screening

Knowing what to look for on a breast self-exam does not take the place of having regular mammograms and other screening tests. These screening tests can help detect breast cancer in its early stages, even before any symptoms appear.
Our Breast Center offers start-of-the-art technology and diagnostic services for breast cancer, including mammograms, breast MRI, breast ultrasound and breast biopsies.

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, the Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ offers a caring, multidisciplinary team of breast specialists – including medical oncologists, breast interventional radiologists, breast surgeons and radiation oncologist – who are dedicated to providing the highest level of treatment for breast cancer.

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