Like many other cancers, breast cancer in its early stages has no discernable symptoms. Breast lumps can be one of the first symptoms, but it must be remembered that the majority of breast lumps are not cancerous. But that is no reason to ignore them.
Breast lumps are usually painless. They usually disappear after the end of a menstrual cycle. If they don’t, they should be checked out.
Mammograms can detect breast tumours before they can be felt by hand.
Here are some common symptoms of breast cancer once a tumour has formed:
- An unusual nipple discharge, which is sometimes stained with blood
- A retraction of the nipple, so that it no longer points outwards
- A rash or crusting on the nipples
- A lump or swelling in the lymph glands in the armpit
- Breast pain or discomfort which persists after the end of the menstrual cycle
- A sharp pain in the breast
- Colour, shape and texture changes in the nipple
- An area on the breast surface that takes on a marble-like appearance, because the veins beneath the skin are visible
- Changes in the shape or contour of the breast. An indentation could be a sign that a tumour has formed, even though you might not be able to feel it.
- One breast becomes significantly larger or lower than the other one
- A change in the texture of the skin on the breast. It is often described as an ‘orange-peel’ texture
- An area on the breast that feels unusually hot to the touch
Diagnosing breast cancer
Treating breast cancer