- The importance of finding breast cancer early
- What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
- Breast cancer risk factors you cannot change
- Lifestyle-related risk factors for breast cancer
- Factors with uncertain, controversial, or unproven effect on breast cancer risk
- Signs and symptoms of breast cancer
- American Cancer Society recommendations for early breast cancer detection in women without breast symptoms
- Magnetic resonance imaging
- Clinical breast exam
- Breast awareness and self-exam
- Other breast cancer screening tests
- Paying for breast cancer screening
- To learn more about breast cancer early detection
- References: Breast cancer early detection
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer
Widespread use of screening mammograms has increased the number of breast cancers found before they cause any symptoms. Still some breast cancers are not found by mammograms, either because the test was not done or because even under ideal conditions mammograms do not find every breast cancer.
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A mass that is painless, hard, and has irregular edges is more likely to be cancerous, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, or rounded. They can even be painful. For this reason, it is important to have any new mass, lump, or breast change checked by a health care professional with experience in diagnosing breast diseases.
Other possible signs of breast cancer include:
- Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct 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
- A nipple discharge other than breast milk
Sometimes a breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm or around the collar bone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the original tumor in the breast tissue is large enough to be felt. Swollen lymph nodes should also be reported to your doctor.
Last Medical Review: 08/30/2012
Last Revised: 02/06/2013