Thousands of women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. For women, only lung cancer has a higher death rate than breast cancer. While this type of cancer can be deadly, there are warning signs that can help you catch it early.
It isn't exactly known why breast cancer develops, but there are somefactors that seem to increase your chances of developing breast cancer. Your age (and gender) increase your risk; While men can be diagnosed with breast cancer, it is one hundred times mores common in women. The highest rate of invasive breast cancer are found in women 55 and older.
There also seems to be a higher risk if your close blood relatives had or have breast cancer. Also, the risk of breast cancer increases with higher amounts of alcohol use and obesity after menopause.
Knowing the risks and the symptoms of breast cancer can significantly increase your chances of catching the illness early. Luckily, there are some things you can look for. While finding a lump in your breast is a common symptom, there are others signs to look for.
If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately:
1. Breast sizes
If the size of one breast enlarges significantly in a short amount of time, this could be a warning sign of breast cancer. Breasts are normally different sizes, but noticing a drastic increase in size or an abnormal change in shape could be something to be concerned about.
Even if there is no lump present, swelling on your breast (even in a small area) is not a good sign. Swelling can also accompany fever-like symptoms; if this is the case, your breasts will feel warm, may become inflamed, become red or purple and will swell. Immediately inform your doctor if you experience these symptoms.
3. Abnormal nipples
Other than breast milk, any other discharge is not normal. Decreased nipple sensitivity is also something to be aware of. Additionally, if your nipple retracts (pulls inward,) or is discolored, be sure to call your doctor.
Having a bumpy "orange peel" texture on your breast or nipple area could very well be a symptom of breast cancer. If you experience severe itching on your breast and dermatologist visits (and creams) don't soothe your symptoms, call your doctor.
5. Noticing a lump
There are benign lumps that form in the breast that may not be cancerous. However, if you notice a mass (that you haven't noticed before, or that feels harder than the surrounding lumps) schedule a breast examination. Be sure to notice any sort of abnormal mass near your armpit; though it is not in your breast, it could still be breast cancer.
6. Breast Pain
This can be caused by a variety of other things that aren't cancer. Fluctuating hormones, some fertility treatments, stress and wearing a bra that doesn't fit right can all cause breast pain. If your pain isn't caused by this list or accompanies other symptoms, contact your doctor.
Some women feel pain in their back or chest instead of their breast. If this pain does not go away with physical therapy or stretching, inform your doctor.
Not all of these symptoms are symptoms of breast cancer. If you get other treatments (like a cream or antibiotic) for these symptoms, but you do not notice a difference within a few days, be sure to call your doctor and be assertive about tests for breast cancer.
Mammograms have significantly increased the detection rate for breast cancer. Regularly schedule these appointments if you are above the age of 40, or if you have a family history of breast cancer. However, there are things a mammogram cannot detect. Having dense breasts make cancer harder to detect even with a mammogram and helps the cancer cells spread more rapidly. Talk to your doctor for additional tests if you fit this description.
Be diligent with your own breast examinations and be aware of what breast cancer symptoms look and feel like. If you are at all concerned, make an appointment with your doctor.
Emily is putting her English and Humanities degree to use editing and writing all over the world. Trying to see all 7 world wonders (while visiting as many countries as she can in between), Emily loves wandering alleyways, beautifully photographed food, stumbling upon impromptu flea and food markets. She can usually be found camera in hand, munching on a street food and never has her headphones out of reach.