Around 150 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK every day. Checking yourself regularly is the best way to spot any symptoms early when they’re most treatable. So, what exactly should you be looking for?
These are 8 common symptoms that could be a sign of breast cancer:
- A lump
Begin your check in the mirror, looking for any noticeable lumps in your breasts, armpits and collarbone. Using the pads of your fingers you can recognise unusual lumps, as they are likely to be solid, irregularly shaped and fixed to the tissue.
However, it’s important to have any lump checked by a doctor, so make sure you book an appointment as a priority.
- Skin texture
Breast cancer can cause the skin to become puckered and dimpled in the chest area.
The resulting texture has been likened to orange peel and is caused by cancerous lumps shortening the fibrous tissue inside the breast, pulling the skin inwards, creating a bumpy or dented feel.
- Shapes and sizes
Changes in breast size or shape may be a symptom. One breast may become larger or flatter and you may notice more dropping on one side than the other.
Breasts can fluctuate at different times of the month or during breastfeeding, but if you notice an on-going problem, consult your doctor.
Changes may be less obvious in women who’ve undergone breast enlargement, but this won’t affect the results of a mammogram.
Pain and tenderness can be common in breasts, usually due to menstruation, the menopause or pregnancy. However, if you’re experiencing consistent breast pain along with inflammation for no obvious reasons, speak to your GP immediately.
Nipple discharge can occur in new mothers and breastfeeding women. However, if your breasts are leaking fluid without any pressure put on them, or if you start to secrete bloodstained or unpleasant smelling fluid, this may be a sign of cancer.
Most cases of breast discharge aren’t related to this, but some early forms of cancer can originate in the milk ducts and cause leaking, usually just in one breast.
- The nipple
Changes in the shape or position of the nipple can often simply be down to a change in temperature or stimulation.
In some cases though, breast cancer tumours can attack the duct behind the nipple, pulling it inwards.
An inverted nipple- especially one accompanied by a rash or itchiness – may be a sign of Paget’s disease, typically associated with breast cancer. However, inverted nipples can also be a normal occurrence and can be fixed with inverted nipples correction surgery.
Inflammatory breast cancer and Paget’s disease can both produce red and itchy rashes on the breast, which sometimes appear similar to eczema.
Most of the time, rashes aren’t associated with cancer. However, it’s always best to share any unusual symptoms with a medical professional, especially if the rash is accompanied by swelling, thickening of the breast.
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare form that can cause visible redness and swelling. Physical symptoms also include pain in the nipple and breasts feeling hot to touch.
If you have implants and your breasts look and feel particularly swollen, this could be an indication of BIA-ALCL – an uncommon and treatable tumour – usually associated with a unilateral seroma between the capsule and implant surface. This is not a breast cancer but a lymphoid tumour arising in the tissue surrounding the implant.
The sooner you alert your surgeon and GP, the earlier they can check your implants and if necessary, have them removed to help combat the condition.
In regards to recent news announcements on BIA-ALCL Professor Marcos Sforza, Scientific Director at MyBreast advises the following:
“Based on all evidence available to us at this time, the World Health Organisation believes women with textured breast implants have an increased risk of developing BIA-ALCL.
“The latest published data suggests the risks today are:
- 1 in 3,200 with Bio-cell implants (so considering that women have 2 breast implants it means the risk is 1 in 1,600 patients)
- 1 in 2,800 with polyurethane implants (or 1 in 1,400 patients)
- 1 in 82,000 with Siltex implants (or 1 in 41,000 patients)
- No cases registered with smooth implants
“The WHO recommendations thus far has been given the current knowledge and frequency of the condition there aren’t immediate plans to change clinical practice or implant type until more is known from on-going research.
“However, it is imperative for all surgeons to be vigilant and open to developments in any adverse incidents regarding breast implants.
“Any individuals who think they may be experiencing symptoms should consult their GP and surgeon immediately”
Take a look at our quick guide to checking your body for breast cancer