Breast cancer is a fairly common type of cancer which affects thousands of women in the US every year. It is also one of the deadliest forms of cancer so it’s important to pay close attention to symptoms in order to increase the chances of early detection and treatment.
Breast cancer symptoms rarely manifest at early stage of the disease. The disease occurs when cancer cells form in some part of the breast. Ideally the cancer can be identified before it has had a chance to spread to other parts of the breast or other parts of the body.
Breast cancer symptoms and signs to look for typically include swelling in the breast or a warm feeling in the breast; sensitivity or tenderness around the nipples; breasts which feel sore; breasts which feel itchy; noticing a rash on the nipple or in a surrounding area like areola; a lump which does not hurt; a large change in the shape of size of the breast; constant pain which develops in a spot of the breast; inward turned nipple; discharge from the nipple other than milk; red or inflamed breasts; and unexplained weight loss among others.
The symptoms discussed may vary depending on the type of breast cancer. The most common is called ductal carcinoma and it begins in the milk ducts within the breast. Other types are lobular carcinoma; invasive breast cancer and a number of other types which are rarer.
If you experience any of these symptoms it is very important to notify your doctor for further examination. Typically the doctor will perform a physical exam to check for further evidence to confirm you are really experiencing breast cancer symptoms. If he suspects a problem the next step is a mammogram which is an x-ray image of the breast. This is generally the best way to diagnose the presence of some type of breast cancer. For most women this should be done at once a year to screen for the early presence of breast cancer and catch it before it has progressed very far.
Other tests may be used to further identify the presence and type of breast cancer. This can include Breast MRI, Breast Ultrasound and other imaging tests. In most cases a biopsy is taken of the affected tissue so that the pathologist can inspect the tissue for the presence of any cancerous cells. If possible a needle biopsy is used since it is the last invasive type. However if it is not possible to obtain sufficient samples of tissue in this way then a surgical incision is generally made and a larger sample of tissue is removed.
It is very important to keep in mind that most forms of breast cancer are very treatable if they are caught in the early stages. If symptoms are ignored or insufficient screening occurs, then by the time the cancer is discovered it may require much more extensive treatments and have a lower likelihood of success.
This is especially true for women who already developed breast cancer and received treatment. There is a much greater risk of the cancer coming back depending upon the type of cancer first treated. So stay diligent and the chances of success and a good quality of life can be achieved.