October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which advocates the importance of early screening in saving the one in eight women diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. With those odds, it’s vital that every woman understand the disease, how it manifests itself, and what precautions they have access to should they need them. Steps such as mammograms or screenings for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene can save a woman’s life through early detection, but beyond the tests in a doctor’s office, a woman should know what changes to look for on her own body to detect breast cancer. While most symptoms may have other causes, the key is to be as proactive as possible in case it is the worst case scenario.
Potential Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
1. Change in Skin Texture
Skin texture can be a warning sign of breast cancer caused by an inflammation in skin cells. Your skin on your breast can become scaly around the nipple, like a peeling sunburn, or skin can generally thicken in that area. There are also cases of skin dimpling, in which the surface of the breast has indentations similar to an orange peel.
2. Swollen Lymph Nodes
If the breast cancers cells venture from the breast, the lymph nodes will be the first to notice. Lymph nodes are collections of immune system tissue that capture potentially harmful cells, so when breast cancer cells make their way to this tissue, it swells. While lymph node swelling can be a symptom of breast cancer, don’t immediately jump to that conclusion; these pockets of the immune system capture anything that can be harmful to the body, so it could be as minor as a cold. Regardless, visit a general physician, and if necessary, they will book you for a mammogram to proceed.
Skin discoloration on the breast can also be a sign. The area will usually turn red or purple, similar to a bruise. If you haven’t had any recent trauma to your breast that would create a bruise, or you have a bruise on your breast that will not go away, see your doctor immediately.
4. Nipple Discharge (Besides Breast Milk)
While nipple discharge is normal when you’re breastfeeding, if it happens under any other circumstances, it is advised to see a doctor. Most of the time, nipple discharge is caused by other issues, like infections, thyroid disease, or a side effect from birth control, but occasionally it does signify cancer.
5. Nipple Retraction
This symptom means that your nipple caves inward due to the cell changes behind the nipple. Another sign can be nipple pain, but that can also be caused by multiple different issues.
6. New Lump or Mass
The most visible sign of breast cancer is an abnormal lump in your breast. The mass can be any shape or size, but most commonly, it is hard and has irregular edges. Even if it is a soft, well-rounded lump, or if your breast generally swells larger than normal, have a doctor check it out immediately, whether with a mammogram or a biopsy, to form a diagnosis.
If you are concerned that you have one or more of these symptoms, diagnostic imaging can help you clarify your diagnosis. Hudson Valley Imaging serves Monroe and New Windsor, N.Y., with mammograms, biopsies, and other diagnostic tests to find the source of your symptoms. Their physicians are so trusted in the Orange County area that they are affiliated with St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital. For more information about their services, call (845) 220-2222 or visit them online.