The less common symptoms of breast cancer
Not all lumps mean breast cancer, and not all breast cancers are found by lumps. According to the National Cancer Institute, about 1 in 8 women will experience breast cancer in their lifetime. However, not all of these women will discover it from a lump in their breast.
Dr. Barry Rosen, a breast cancer surgeon, and Heidi Wiltse, a women’s nurse navigator at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. want you to know that there are other indicators you should look out for when it comes to breast cancer.
“Thankfully, most breast cancers are currently diagnosed before symptoms develop by successful screening mammography programs,” Dr. Rosen says. “However, as everyone knows, mammograms are not foolproof. Overwhelmingly, the most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump.”
But not everyone experiences this common symptom. So what other symptoms should you be aware of?
- Pain. While breast pain is not directly associated with breast cancer, it can still be a symptom.
Dr. Rosen says, “Most women with breast pain do not have cancer, and many breast cancers are painless; however, breast cancers can cause pain. I recently cared for a woman who developed breast pain during breastfeeding. While the pain resolved, she noted a persistent fullness in this area of her breast and astutely sought out medical advice, at which time we did find a cancer precisely where she noted the pain.”
- Changes in the nipple, skin or armpit. Heidi and Dr. Rosen both advise individuals to be aware of any dimples in the breast skin, armpit or nipple abnormalities, nipple discharge, rash, nipple inversion or deviation in one direction. It’s best to seek medical advice if you notice any of these changes.
- Be aware of cancer recurrence symptoms. Heidi often tells survivors of breast cancer to take note of specific signs and symptoms of recurrence. These can include new lumps in the breast, persistent bone pain, persistent cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chest pain or persistent headaches.
While this may not be a complete list of symptoms associated with breast cancer, Dr. Rosen says you shouldn’t hesitate to contact your physician if you notice any changes.
“Women, in particular, are very in tune with their bodies,” says Dr. Rosen. “Abrupt changes in one’s body warrant medical attention if for no other reason than reassurance.”
About the Author
Liz Donofrio, health enews contributor, is a marketing specialist at Advocate Health Care. As a newlywed, she is happy to be done planning her wedding and enjoying spending time with her husband and new extended family. In her free time, you can find Liz cooking new tasty recipes for her family, attending Chicago sporting events and chasing after her shih tzu-yorkie, Buttons.