What Are the Early Symptoms of Breast Cancer?

An ache in the breast. A lumpy feeling. A redness that won’t go away. Breast changes can be alarming. But are they early symptoms of breast cancer? While it is possible to detect symptoms of breast cancer on your own, it’s important to know that not all changes are cause for worry. Learn the common symptoms of breast cancer, what to do about them, and when to see your doctor.

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Know Your Body

To identify symptoms of breast cancer, you first must be familiar with your body. Regularly examine yourself. Get to know the normal look and feel of your breasts. And don’t forget to look in the mirror. Some symptoms of breast cancer can only be seen and not felt.

Quick tip: There are a number of possible warning signs of breast cancer. But instead of searching for particular symptoms of breast cancer, pay attention to any changes in your breasts. The key is to identify anything that is out of the ordinary for you.

Finding breast cancer early can make a big difference. According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is found in its earliest stages, women have a five-year survival rate of 99%.

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Loma Linda University Cancer Center
11234 Anderson St, Suite A600, Loma Linda, CA 92354
909-558-2262
Loma Linda University Health – Beaumont – Banning
Oncology
81 South Highland Springs Ave., Suite 201, Beaumont, CA 92223
909-558-2262
Loma Linda University Health – Beaumont – Banning
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81 South Highland Springs Ave., Suite 105, Beaumont, CA 92223
800-496-4966
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28078 Baxter Rd., Suite 130, Murrieta, CA 92563
951-290-4148
Loma Linda University Professional Office Building – Murrieta
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28078 Baxter Rd., Suite 130, Murrieta, CA 92563
951-290-4162
Loma Linda University Professional Office Building – Murrieta
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28078 Baxter Rd., Suite 220, Murrieta, CA 92563
951-290-4860
Loma Linda University Professional Office Building – Murrieta
Faculty Surgical Oncology Medical Offices
28078 Baxter Rd., Suite 510, Murrieta, CA 92563
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Understanding Breast Lumps

A lump in the breast is one of the most common symptoms of breast cancer. But keep in mind that most lumps or masses in the breast are benign—meaning they are not cancerous. For example, fluid-filled cysts and noncancerous tumors, such as fibroadenomas, can often present as a lump, raising concern for cancer. Benign breast conditions, like fibrocystic changes, can cause the breasts to feel lumpy. So how do you know if the lump you feel is a symptom of breast cancer?

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know if a lump is cancerous or benign just through feeling alone. Simply feeling the breast doesn’t give you enough information to tell the difference between a cancerous mass and a benign one.That’s why it is important to call your doctor and get any breast lump checked right away. This is important even if you’ve had cysts or other benign breast issues before. While many lumps of bumps in your breasts are benign, it’s still important to see your doctor and get an assessment.

Other Possible Symptoms of Breast Cancer

In addition to a lump or mass in the breast, there are many other early symptoms of breast cancer. These can include changes in both the look and feel of the breast, such as:

  • Skin changes, such as dimpled, puckering or scaly skin
  • Change in size, shape, skin texture or color of your breast
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk
  • Nipple changes such as inversion, tenderness or flaking
  • Swelling on part of your breast or enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit

Typically, pain in the breast is not a symptom of breast cancer. It’s usually a result of normal hormonal changes in the body or other issues such as muscle strain or even wearing a poorly-fitting bra. But if your breast pain is specific to one spot, not linked to your menstrual cycle or lasts for more than two weeks, see your doctor to rule out any problems.

Seeking Treatment

If you detect any possible symptoms of breast cancer, don’t panic. Make an appointment to see your doctor. It can be easy to put off an appointment for fear of what you might learn, but finding breast cancer early can make a big difference. According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is found in its earliest stages, women have a five-year survival rate of 99%. Remember, the earlier you find breast cancer, the less invasive your treatment will likely be and the better your outcome.

When to See Your Doctor for Breast Cancer Symptoms

When you should be checked for breast cancer symptoms:

  • When you feel a change or abnormality in one or both of your breasts
  • At regular screenings

Regularly checking for a breast cancer lump or other breast change is easy and can potentially save your life, but many tumors do not cause symptoms that can be seen or felt, especially in early stages. That’s why sticking to a regular breast cancer screening schedule is important, so you’re being monitored even when symptoms aren’t present.

Ask your doctor when you should begin mammogram screening and how often you should have the test. Your age, personal history and family history all play a role in setting a mammogram screening schedule. Some common times to get screened for breast cancer include:

  • Alongside your annual or bi-annual pap smear
  • Any time you see your OB/GYN for any reason
  • At an annual wellness check-up with your primary care physician

Patient navigators are registered nurses trained in oncology care to guide you through the challenges of dealing with cancer. They are here to support you as you go through diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Contact the Patient Navigator team at 800-782-2623.

Peace of Mind

The Breast Health Center at Loma Linda University Cancer Center offers the most advanced breast cancer screening and diagnostic capabilities in the Inland Empire. This includes:

  • All types of mammography
  • Breast MRI
  • Breast ultrasound
  • Minimally invasive biopsy

What’s more, an expert radiologist dedicated to breast issues reads all imaging studies. This advanced technology and expertise allows doctors to detect breast abnormalities earlier and more accurately, as well as thoroughly evaluate potential symptoms of breast cancer.

You know your body best. Remember to check for possible symptoms of breast cancer between screening appointments and take advantage of expert care close to home.