Symptoms and Early Signs of Breast Cancer

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What Is Breast Cancer?

Cells that grow out of control in the breast region are called breast cancer. It is normal for the body to form new cells to replace old cells that die. But sometimes this process goes wrong. New cells grow unnecessarily, and old cells don’t die. These cells in excess can become a mass and turn into a tumor, which can be benign or malignant. Benign tumors are nonlife threatening, while malignant tumors can invade nearby tissues.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among American women according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Women over 50 are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, but it can affect younger women as well. Although men can develop breast cancer too, it’s much rarer though just as serious as breast cancer in women.

Breast cancer can begin in any of the three main parts of a breast – the lobules, ducts and connective tissue. The lobules are the milk-producing gland in the breast while the ducts are the pathways that help carry milk to the nipple. The connective tissue is a fibrous and fatty tissue that holds everything together. When the breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body through blood vessels and lymph vessels, it has metastasized.

What Is a Normal Breast?

What is normal for you may not be the same for another woman. Your breasts change at different times during your lifetime. Some women may have lumpy or uneven breasts, others do not. It is important to remember that the way your breasts look and feel can be affected by certain factors including your age, menstrual period, pregnancy, weight changes and medications. Keep in mind that breast changes are common, and most are not cancer.

What Do Lumps in My Breast Mean?

Lumps come in different shapes and sizes. Although lumps may point to cancer, many other conditions can cause lumps in the breast. Note that normal breast tissue can sometimes feel lumpy too. Some of the conditions that cause breast lumps are fibrocystic breasts and cysts.

Fibrocystic breasts can cause noncancerous changes that make them lumpy, tender and sore while cysts are small fluid-filled sacs that can develop in the breast.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer may not cause any symptoms in its early stages. But in general, different people have different symptoms of breast cancer and some may not have any signs or symptoms at all.

Some breast changes can be felt, but most can be detected only with the use of imaging procedures, such as a mammogram, MRI or ultrasound. That’s why it’s important to do breast self-exams to help you learn how your breasts normally feel. This way it would be easier for you to notice and find changes. However, breast self-exams are not a substitute for mammograms.

If you have any of the following symptoms, see your doctor right away:

  • New lump in the breast or underarm
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
  • Irritation, itching or dimpling of breast skin
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
  • Any change in the size of the shape of the breast
  • Pain in any area of the breast

How Common Is Breast Cancer?

About 255,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 42,000 die from the disease each year in the U.S. And about one out every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S. is found in a man.

Breast cancer death rates went down by 1% per year from 2013 to 2018, believed to be the result of early detection through screening, increased awareness of the disease and advanced treatments.

How Can I Reduce My Risk?

While there are risk factors you can’t control, such as getting older or genetics, subscribing to a healthy lifestyle and taking preventive measures can help lower your risk of developing breast cancer.

  • Obesity and alcohol misuse increase your risk for developing breast cancer. Go for a nutrient-dense diet, exercise as often as possible and limit intake of alcoholic drinks.
  • Regular mammograms may not prevent breast cancer, but early is key in breast cancer detection. Consider having annual screenings by the time you reach the age of 40.
  • If you’re taking hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives, ask your doctor about the risks and for other possible alternatives.
  • Breastfeed your children, if possible.
  • Having a family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can significantly raise your risk. Discuss your diagnostic and preventive treatment options with your doctor.

At Abrazo Health, we recognize that when it comes to breast health, early detection is key. Our Abrazo Breast Center at Abrazo Central Campus in Phoenix, Arizona, offers advanced technology and personalized care to help navigate your journey.

Caring for you first is our top priority. That’s why we are here with innovative screening services and hours that work with your busy life, so you get your results quickly with less false positives.

Our network of experienced physicians of breast surgeons, radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, plastic and reconstructive surgeons are here to help in your care.

Our dedicated breast center at Abrazo Central Campus in Phoenix, Arizona, offers the following services to help you stay on top of your breast health:

  • 3D digital screening and diagnostic mammography
  • Breast MRI and ultrasound
  • On-site radiologists
  • Stereotactic, ultrasound-guided and MRI-guided breast biopsies

To schedule a mammogram, visit Breast Cancer page or call 844-808-6371.

There is often a positive outlook with early detection and treatment. Don’t delay care. We have precautions in place to ensure your safety so you can stay on top of your breast health. We are here for you.