Breast cancer impacts hundreds of thousands of women each year. According to the American Cancer Society, about 13% of women will develop breast cancer sometime in her life. That equates to about 1 in 8 women. While more common as women age, breast cancer can develop at any stage of life. A close family history of breast cancer does increase your risk, however more than 85% of women have no family history of the disease.
Yet, many women don’t know what to look for beyond an unusual lump. In fact, breast cancer symptoms vary from person to person. Here are just a few of the signs to look for that may indicate a possible cancer concern. Early warning signs, other than a detectable lump, may include:
- Swelling, redness or other visible differences.
- Increase in size or change in shape.
- One or both nipples changing in appearance.
- Discharge from the nipple other than breast milk.
- Any general pain in or on the surface of the breast.
- Dimpling of the skin or any changes to the skin’s texture.
- Nipple retraction or inversion.
- Swollen lymph nodes under your arm or around your collarbone.
If you have one of these symptoms, do you have breast cancer? There are many other potential conditions that may present the same way, so there’s a strong probability that it isn’t cancer. However, they are all reasons to consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
When it comes to breast cancer, every woman should be aware of the potential signs. Talk with your physician about your individual risk factors and whether you should be getting periodic mammograms. If you are diagnosed (or feel you have been mis-diagnosed), don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion and carefully evaluate your treatment options.
The good news is that, with early diagnosis and treatment, the prognosis is very good (women with cancer confined to the breast have a 5-year survival rate of 99%).