05 July 2006

Breast Cancer Warning Signs

A year ago today, my mother died from breast cancer. That is the bad news. The good news is that she lived a long time after her first diagnosis, long enough to have grandchildren and see the oldest grow old enough to read to her, due to a reasonably early detection of the disease, prevention efforts during periods of remission, and effective treatment of the disease. Researchers are continuing to make progress in improving the way breast cancer is treated and detected. But, you can't begin to treat breast cancer until you take appropriate action to detect it. What are the Signs of Breast Cancer?

Question: I'm worried I might have breast cancer. What are the signs?

Answer: Often there are no outward signs of breast cancer that you can see or feel. If there are outward signs, the more common ones include a lump, an area of thickening, or a dimple in the breast. Less common signs include breast swelling and redness or an enlarged underarm lymph node.

But even if you have one or more of these signs, it still doesn't mean you have breast cancer. Remember that most breast lumps turn out to be benign (not cancerous).

Still, it's extremely important that you SEE YOUR DOCTOR RIGHT AWAY if you're worried that you might have breast cancer. Having your doctor take a look will ease your worry, and if anything is found, you'll be able to take care of it quickly.

Physical examination of the breast is one way to find breast cancer. You can read about other screening methods for detecting breast cancer in our Testing section and in the transcript of our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference on The Best Tests.

To find out whether specific symptoms are associated with breast cancer, read the breastcancer.org experts' answers to common questions about:


nipple changes


breast pain

You can also learn how to perform breast self-examination.

A false alarm costs you a doctor's visit (which might find some other problem or better prepare you for a real emergency). Delaying inappropriately can greatly curtail your options.

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