In between annual visits to the OB/GYN – or in some cases every three years – we women tend to do breast self-exams when we remember, and we tend to keep it simple. We lift, push, and check for lumps to make sure nothing is amiss.
If something feels too off, it freaks us out, and rightfully so. Breast cancer is nothing to fool around with, and the sooner it’s caught, the better chance we have of receiving some level of treatment. But what about those signs and symptoms that have nothing to do with a lump?
Although mammograms help to capture abnormalities, breast cancer can affect any woman at any age. And every woman’s symptoms will not present the same, so it’s important to pay attention to any warning signs you notice on your own.
Listed here are some things to watch out for when it comes to breast health, whether you have a noticeable lump or not. As always, confirm your suspicions by following up with your doctor.
- Nipple Discharge Have you noticed a breast discharge that is clear or tinged with blood? If you have a nipple discharge that only affects one breast and occurs without you applying pressure or squeezing it, it’s possible that cancer is present.
- Breast DiscolorationRedness or dark pigmentation on your breast could indicate the presence of a tumor, or inflammatory breast cancer. IBC is a rare form of breast cancer but can cause the tissue to turn red, purple, or another dark color.It may or may not be accompanied by a rash. However, discoloration may also be from an infection. Visit a medical professional to be sure.
- Breast DimplingSmall dimples in the skin can be a sign of breast cancer. Tumors can cause the tissue to pucker, but women will not necessarily have more than one dimple. If you do notice one or more, check with your doctor right away.
- Swelling The breast may not be the only part of the body that’s swollen. Abnormal swelling near the armpit or collarbone could be a sign of breast cancer. Some breast tissue extends into those areas, but it may also indicate that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
- Sunken NipplesA sudden change in the shape of your nipples, like them becoming inverted, should set off an alarm. Growths in the breast can affect the surrounding tissue, causing the nipples to become misshapen or to turn inwards.
- Cracked or Scaly NipplesIf you’re experiencing irritation like itchiness, flakiness, scaly skin, or cracked areas on the nipple, it might be connected to breast cancer. In many cases, this is due to hormonal changes or something in your environment, but get checked if you have concerns.
- Heat/WarmthDoes your breast feel warm to the touch? While it may be something minor, tumors can cause the temperature to rise in the tissues.
Routine breast cancer screenings typically don’t begin until a woman reaches age 40, so it is important to practice self-exams at any age. Report any odd appearances or symptoms to your doctor to find out if you have a benign breast condition, infection, or cancer.
Do you know someone who was diagnosed with breast cancer with symptoms other than a lump? What signs did they have? Do you conduct self-checks?
American Cancer Society
Susan G. Komen Foundation