Often, you will be advised to have breast exams and mammograms every 1-2 years. If you have been doing so, then that’s a great step you have taken to ensure breast cancer doesn’t strike without you seeing it. Most of these tests involve looking for lumps. A thing to note is that lumps can’t be easily detected as we tend to think. It stays undetected until it is over ten millimeters in size. Mammograms on the other side cannot be relied on as they have been shown to miss at least one in every ten tumors. It is especially unreliable in younger women and those women that have a dense breast issue.
Breast cancer has been shown to have symptoms that differ among different women. The first early symptoms will be different depending on your body composition. Familiarizing with your body and noting any changes is crucial to keeping safe. Below are some of those early symptoms that you can look at for and alert your doctor if you spot them.
1. Pain In The Neck, Shoulders And Upper Back
For some women, the first symptom they have been pain in the back upper body. The pain is so intense and doesn’t go away no matter how much you stretch or change your sleeping position. You will encounter some who have undergone physical therapy for chronic back pain which fails to work. This occurs when the tumor develops and pushes to the back rather than the front. That’s why doctors (in this case spine specialists) are advised to look out for tumors as they treat this pain. Undergoing a bone scan will help rule out breast cancer.
2. Chest or Breast Pains
This might be considered as the main symptom that signifies the presence of breast cancer. You will hear a patient complain of a sharp pain that comes and goes within no time. Others will complain of pain or discomfort around the chest area. Whatever kind of pain you experience, have it checked. The thing is breast cancer occurs in different form and thus the different types of pain. It may be a single lump or the tumors may be scattered like seeds. Keep track of this pain (when, where and how often it occurs) and tell your doctor. Tests should be done to determine exactly what is triggering this pain.
3. Physical Breast Changes
The appearance, size and shape of your breasts are things you should be aware of all the times. Look out for any changes that may appear and inform your doctor about them. This is especially important for those women who have been told they have dense breast issue. You may not feel any lump but may notice some physical changes that weren’t there before. For example, one breast may be more oval than the other.
4. Itching Breasts
Another sign to watch out for is extreme itching and irritation. This itching, however, differs from the common itching as scratching doesn’t help much, neither do ointments that are known to relieve itching. This occurs when blood vessels that feed the skin are blocked by fast-growing cancer cells causing a buildup of fluid under the skin that triggers itching. This is especially a major sign of inflammatory breast cancer that is the most aggressive of all types of breast cancer (34% survival rate in a span of five years).
5. A Notable Lump Or Swelling In The Armpit
Swelling of the lymph nodes under the armpit or a lump in this area is something you should watch out for. It feels like a tender spot or sore similar in the throat when you have flu. Breast cancer in most cases first affects the nodes in the armpit before spreading to other parts. However, note that other infections may trigger such swelling (e.g. a cold or flu) and thus, you should wait for it to clear before you feel alarmed. Those that appear without a particular cause are the ones you should be worried about.
6. Nipple Changes
Breast cancer occurs in different locations and one is right beneath the nipple. This may trigger its sensitivity to decrease or the nipple shape or size to change. Another thing that you may notice is an unusual discharge from the nipple which may be watery, bloody or milky. This especially occurs when the tumor attacks the milk duct or you have a rare form of cancer known as the Paget’s disease.
Look out for the above symptoms of breast cancer which may help in detecting this cancer early. It affects both male and female but male breast cancer has been shown to be deadlier. Treatment is available for cases that are detected early and thus not seen as a death sentence.