Breast cancer. What do you think of first when you hear those words? Do you immediately think of death? Does your mind instantly conjure up pictures of bald, gaunt women in the midst of chemotherapy treatment? Or do you see yourself in the mirror wondering if you might possibly be the next person to receive a diagnosis? You may not have pictured any of these scenarios; instead, you may have immediately thought about the discovery of a palpable lump in breast tissue. And while breast lumps are very common warning signs of possible cancer, they are not the only ones.
There are several less-known warning signs of a possibility of breast disease. In this post, my desire is to bring awareness to lesser-known symptoms in hopes of helping save someone's life. When it comes to breast cancer awareness, knowledge is power and the more we know, the better prepared we can be for the future.
Before we begin talking about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, may I ask you a question? How well do you know your breasts? That's an embarrassing question for some, but it's an important one. Do you ever take time to really look at your breasts? If you haven't scrutinized them before, it's time you do.
When you have the opportunity, stand in front of a large mirror. Remove your blouse and bra. Look at yourself from the neck down. As you view your chest area, look at the size of your breasts. They may or may not be symmetrical and that's OK. Many women are born with one breast slightly larger or smaller than the other. The important thing is to really pay attention to how your breasts look.
While viewing your breasts, look at them in a scientific manner. Do you notice any immediate areas of concern? If so, make a mental note of the area. You may even want to take a digital picture. Next, turn your body to the side. View your breasts individually from each side. Once again, look for any areas of concern. After completing the visual inspection of your breasts, now would be a good time to do a breast self-exam. If you've never done one before, they are fairly easy to do. Here are step by step instructions.
Now, let's discuss the less common signs that could indicate a possibility of breast cancer. One of the first and most commonly overlooked signs is a slight puckering of the breast. The puckering may be very slight. It might not be visible unless you lift your arms and look at your breasts in the mirror with arms raised. If you notice any puckering, no matter how slight, you need to see your doctor and have this area checked. The puckering may be near the nipple, along the sides of your breasts, or anywhere along your breast tissue. As a tumor in the breast begins to grow, it can sometimes disrupt the architecture of the skin and cause a pulling of tissues and ligaments. Puckering may be so slight it only looks like a mild indentation and it may resolve after you've moved your arms back into a normal position.
Along with puckering, another possible sign of breast cancer is breast dimpling. Dimpling is a type of condition that resembles the skin of an orange. There may be slight pitting or dimples along the breast tissue. If you notice any such areas, please have them checked as soon as possible.
Another less common sign of possible breast cancer involves the nipple. This symptom is more noticeable and more commonly shared with a medical professional. This sign involves discharge. Any discharge that comes from the nipple on its own should be reported to a doctor, especially if it is tinged with blood. Nipple discharges that come from the nipple upon squeezing, do not usually indicate breast cancer. In fact, a slightly cloudy fluid may be normal colostrum in women who are pregnant or about to begin nursing.
Changes in the color of the nipple or areola should also be reported to your doctor. Sometimes a flaking or irritation of the nipple can signal a problem. If your nipple has changed in appearance, pay particular attention. Breast cancer can invade nipple tissue causing variations in texture, appearance, or color. An inverting (turning inward) of the nipple could also signal a problem.
Another less known sign of breast cancer can be breast pain. If you notice a particular area of your breast that hurts, like a deep, inner throbbing, have your doctor evaluate it as soon as possible. A growing tumor can cause breast tissue pain.
Red spots on the skin of the breast can also be warning signs of a problem. Although this sign is often disregarded, it can be a very subtle warning signal of a very dangerous type of breast cancer. Red areas on the breast tissue can warn of inflammatory breast cancer. This type of cancer is rare, but needs to be evaluated quickly. If your breast becomes warm, red, swollen, or if you notice your breast tissues has thickened, please get checked. You may only have a type of breast infection but it's always better to be safe than sorry.
Now that you know some of the lesser known symptoms of breast cancer, please be sure and check your breasts on a regular basis. Perhaps you'd like to put a reminder in your phone calendar or find some other way to help you remember to check yourself. There are even websites you can sign up for that will send you free reminders, Check Your Boobies is one such organization. Along with these symptoms, please remember, in your exams, to pay particular attention to any lumps, masses or areas of hard tissue you come across. Also, make sure to have regular mammograms or other diagnostic tests. While these tests are vitally important, the majority of breast cancers are found by women who are diligent to check their bodies. It's our responsibility to do what we can to protect ourselves.
In the event you notice any of the symptoms described in this article, don't instantly become fearful and assume you have breast cancer but do see a doctor as soon as possible. Early detection can often prevent more serious problems later.