Breast Cancer Overview

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer

The widespread use of screening mammograms has increased the number of breast cancers found before they cause any symptoms, but screening can’t find all cancers.

The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A lump that is painless, hard, and has uneven edges is more likely to be cancer. But some cancers are tender, soft, and rounded or even painful. So it's important to have anything new or unusual checked by a doctor.

Other symptoms of breast cancer include the following:

  • Swelling of all or part of the breast
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Breast pain
  • Nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
  • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • A nipple discharge other than breast milk

Sometimes breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm or around the collarbone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the tumor in the breast tissue is large enough to be felt.

Although these symptoms can be caused by things other than breast cancer, it is important to have them checked out by your doctor.


Last Medical Review: 09/17/2013
Last Revised: 01/31/2014