Signs of breast cancer that is not a lump: pain, visible changes

Signs of breast cancer that is not a lump: pain, visible changes

For decades, the medical community and media have conducted an effective awareness campaign about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, educating the public about the importance of monitoring your breasts seriously for lumps. This tactic worked. Early detection contributed to a 38 percent decrease in breast cancer mortality in women between 1992 and 2018, according to the National Cancer Institute. While this is an important step forward, many other abnormalities that can also indicate breast cancer are less known and discussed. Some might then be led to suppose that no tumors and tumors mean no cancer, but that could be a dangerous conclusion to draw.

When most people think of breast cancer symptoms, they think of breast tumors. But doctors say the visual changes could be especially key to helping detect breast cancer early. You can notice some of these changes simply by changing the way you look at your reflection in the mirror, says Cynthia Lynch, MD, a medical oncologist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. ® (CTCA), Phoenix.

“You can see a lot of things just by looking at your breasts in the mirror. When your arms are at your sides, you don’t always see everything,” says Dr. Lynch, Medical Adviser to the CTCA® Breast Cancer Program . “Put your hands on or raise your hips. It’s also helpful to put your arms in two different positions while looking.”

In this article, we’ll look at the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, including:

If you think you have any signs or symptoms of breast cancer and would like to speak with a CTCA breast cancer expert about diagnosis and treatment options, call us or speak online with a member of our team.

Warning signs

Other warning signs of breast cancer include:

Changes in the nipple and surrounding area: Changes in the nipple area may be a deformity or genetic change, but nipple retraction (when the nipple inverts) can be a sign of cancer. If the nipple has not been inverted before and has inverted, see your doctor.

Bloody nipple discharge: Nipple bleeding can be limited and hard to see, but if you notice bloody spots on your bra, pay attention. Clear or milky secretions can result from normal physiological changes during the prepubertal stages. But if the discharge is unusual, bloody, or persistent, talk to your healthcare provider.

A change in the color and/or thickness of the breast skin: the medical community is known as peau d’orange (French term meaning orange peel), any dimple or thickening of the skin on the chest that looks like an orange peel is a red sign. These symptoms are often associated with inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), a rare but aggressive disease that usually does not involve a lump and may not be detected by mammography. Symptoms of vasculitis occur as a result of cancer cells blocking the lymph vessels in the skin.

Symptoms of IBC include:

  • Explosion
  • skin thickness
  • shooting pain

Some changes occur in the breast, upper abdomen, or back of the chest. It can be difficult to detect color changes in African Americans and in obese patients with very large breasts. You may notice changes in your breasts from day to day, and skin changes can occur in as little as six months.

Although IBC accounts for 1 to 3 percent of all breast cancers, it accounts for 10 to 15 percent of all breast cancer deaths.

Other signs

Other possible signs of IBC include:

  • High temperature in the chest.
  • One breast appears larger, warmer, and/or heavier than the other.
  • Chest pain, itching, or tenderness.

A non-healing sore anywhere on the breast, including the nipple: A red, scaly, crusty nipple and any persistent changes in the skin, including blood or fluid from the nipple, can be a sign of Paget’s disease of the breast, another rare form of cancer the breast. This disease arises from the nipple. It is generally non-surgical and is most often diagnosed in patients between the ages of 70 and 80.

Swollen axillary lymph nodes (axillary lymph nodes): Some patients with breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes may have no symptoms in the breast or changes in the structure of the breast. But they feel something unusual under the arm. This may mean that the breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. These affected nodes may also be in the lower neck if the cancer is a little more advanced. Cancer cells often use the lymphatic system to invade distant organs.

It’s also important to remember that not all breast lumps are signs of cancer, a fact that underscores the importance of recognizing the shape and appearance of your breasts. “Pay attention to your breasts,” says Dr. Lynch. “You have to touch them to be aware. Breast self-awareness is the terminology now used in place of breast self-examination.”

Breast Cancer Centers at CTCA

At each of our CTCA Breast Cancer Centers, located at our hospitals in Atlanta, Chicago, and Phoenix, our cancer care experts are dedicated to one mission: treating breast cancer patients with compassion and precision.

The care team for each patient is led by a medical oncologist and may also include a breast surgeon, radiation oncologist, radiologist, pathologist, and plastic and reconstructive surgeon. Our pathologists and oncologists have experience and training in tools designed to diagnose, stage and treat many types of breast cancer, from early-stage ductal carcinomas to complex diseases such as triple negative breast cancer and IBC. Genetic counseling and genetic testing are also available for eligible patients.

Our model of patient-centered care is designed to help you stay strong during treatment. The multidisciplinary care team can recommend several evidence-based supportive care services, including:

The entire team works hand in hand with a comprehensive personalized approach, which is the core of our centers’ dedication to providing personalized and comprehensive care.

If you think you have any signs or symptoms of breast cancer and would like to speak with a CTCA breast cancer expert about diagnosis and treatment options, call us or speak online with a member of our team.

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