Breast Cancer Symptoms and Signs

Breast cancer is the second most common non-skin related cancer whose 10 years survival incidence is up to 98% if discovered in early stages so recognizing breast cancer symptoms as soon as they appear is very important. Breast cancer is a type of cancer that affects the breast tissue and there are many types of breast cancer. The two most common are the ductal carcinomas, cancers that originate in the milk ducts and the lobular carcinomas, cancers that begin in the lobules that supply the ducts with milk. Even though breast cancer is much more common in women, it can also occur in men. The survival rate depends on many factors such as the stage of the condition, treatment, genetic makeup, aggressiveness and especially the type of cancer.

Breast cancer is asymptomatic in its early stages and in most cases the lumps are too small to be felt during a self examination. Early stages of breast cancer may be discovered with a screening mammogram which can show abnormalities of the breast. However, the most common symptom of breast cancer is the presence of a lump or mass in the breast. Although most of the cancerous lumps are hard, painless and have uneven edges, some of the cancerous nodules can be soft, tender and rounded. This is the main reason why any abnormality should be checked with a doctor in order to exclude cancer.

The American Cancer Society has established certain unusual changes in the breast that may be the first breast cancer signs. These are skin irritation or dimpling, breast pain, nipple pain, nipple turning inward, swelling of all or part of the breast, redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast, nipple discharge that is not breast milk and the lump in the underarm area. A cyst or an infection can however cause similar symptoms so if these changes are noticed, a doctor should be sought immediately.

Fibrocystic disease is a common condition that affects the breasts. It is most of the times benign and it affects over 60% of women. This condition is somehow related to breast cancer. Women with fibrocystic disease should have increased breast cancer awareness because they have a two to six fold increased risk of cancer compared to the women who do not suffer from this condition. The lumps that women get from this disease are similar to those from cancer. Diagnosing fibrocystic breasts can be difficult due to the similarity between the fibrocystic lumps and the cancerous lumps. Even if fibrocystic disease is itself benign, the possibility of an underlying cancer must be ruled out.

All women are at risk of getting breast cancer but these risks may be lowered. The main breast cancer prevention is checking the breasts up on a regular basis. Any kind of abnormality such as a mass or lump or change that a woman notices with her breasts may be a sign of cysts, infections or breast cancer. Regular checkups which include self-examination and mammograms can help in preventing breast cancer. All in all, breast cancer symptoms may not be present at an early stage but periodic examinations may provide information on breast changes that may or may not be cancerous.

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