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  • Writer's pictureGrace Health

How Do I Know If I Have Breast Cancer?

With so much information out there and not sure who or what information to trust, it can be misleading to identify if the symptoms you are experiencing are breast cancer or something else. Many people today run to the internet and type in their symptoms hoping to get a diagnosis. But anyone who has ever tried it, knows far too well how discouraging the search results might be. Instead of guessing let’s learn more about breast cancer. Shall we?

What are the early signs of breast cancer?

Early on, you may notice a change in your breast after a monthly breast exam or when minor abnormal pain doesn’t seem to go away. Common symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • A lump in your breast or underarm that doesn’t go away. This is often the first symptom of breast cancer. Your doctor can usually see a lump on a mammogram long before you can see or feel it.

  • Pain and tenderness, although lumps don’t usually hurt. Some may cause a prickly feeling.

  • Swelling in your armpit or near your collarbone. This could mean breast cancer has spread to lymph nodes in that area. Swelling may start before you feel a lump, so let your doctor know if you notice it.

  • Breast changes. Such as a difference in the size, contour, texture, or temperature of your breast.

  • A flat or indented area on your breast. This could happen because of a tumour that you can’t see or feel.

  • Changes in your nipple. like one that pulls inward, Is dimpled, burns, itches or develops sores

  • Unusual nipple discharge. It could be clear, bloody, or another colour.

  • A marble-like area under your skin that feels different from any other part of either breast.

What are the types and symptoms?

Breast cancer is more like a general term and there are several kinds. Most of which share symptoms. The types and symptoms include:

1. Ductal carcinoma symptoms

It is the most common type of breast cancer and begins in your ducts. About 1 in 5 new breast cancers are ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). This means you have cancer in the cells that line your ducts, but it hasn’t spread into nearby tissue. Though you may not notice any symptoms of ductal carcinoma. This is also known to cause a breast lump or bloody discharge.

2. Lobular carcinoma symptoms

This is the second most common type of breast cancer and it begins in the glands that make milk, called lobules. Symptoms include: Fullness, thickening, or swelling in one area and nipples that are flat or point inward (inverted)

3. Invasive breast cancer symptoms

This cancer spreads from where it began into the tissues around it and is called invasive or infiltrating. You may notice:

  • A lump in your breast or armpit. You might not be able to move it separately from your skin or move it at all.

  • One breast looks different from the other

  • A rash or skin that’s thick, red, or dimpled like an orange

  • Skin sores

  • Swelling in your breast

  • Small, hard lymph nodes that may be stuck together or stuck to your skin

  • Pain in one spot

4. Metastatic breast cancer symptoms

Without treatment, breast cancer can spread to other parts and organs of your body. This is called metastatic, advanced, or secondary breast cancer. Depending on where it is, you may have:

  • Bone pain

  • Headache

  • Nausea

  • Belly swelling

  • Trouble breathing

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

  • Muscle weakness

  • Yellow skin or eyes (jaundice)

  • Double vision

  • Changes in brain function

5. Paget’s disease of the breast symptoms

It often happens along with ductal carcinoma and affects the skin of your nipple and areola. Symptoms may look like eczema and include:

  • Bloody or yellow discharge from the nipple

  • Nipple skin that’s crusted, scaly, and red

  • Burning or itching

  • A flat or inverted nipple

6. Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) symptoms

Is a rare type that causes symptoms similar to an infection. They include:

  • A breast that’s warm, swollen, and red

  • Skin that’s dimpled, leathery, or ridged

  • A nipple that turns inward

  • Unusual nipple discharge

7. Papillary carcinoma symptoms

Also a very rare type of ductal cancer. It’s named for the tiny lumps, or papules, on the tumour. Common symptoms include: A small, hard cyst and bloody discharge from the nipple

8. Angiosarcoma symptoms

It represents less than 2% of breast cancers. These start in the cells that line your blood vessels or lymph nodes. Angiosarcoma may cause:

  • A lump in your breast

  • A purple area of skin that looks like a bruise

  • Skin that bleeds easily when scratched or bumped

  • Pain in one area

9. Triple-negative breast cancer symptoms

When breast cancer doesn’t have receptors for the hormones estrogen and progesterone and doesn’t make a lot of a protein called HER2 it is called triple-negative. It tends to grow and spread faster than other types, and doctors treat it differently. They cause the same symptoms as other common types.

What causes breast cancer?

While the exact causes of breast cancer are not fully understood, there are certain factors known to increase the risk of breast cancer. These include:

  • A family history of breast cancer

  • Age – the risk increases as you get older

  • A previous diagnosis of breast cancer

  • A previous non-cancerous (benign) breast lump

  • Being tall, overweight or obese

  • Drinking alcohol

How is breast cancer diagnosed?

After examining your breasts, a doctor may refer you to a specialist or breast cancer clinic for further tests. The tests might include breast screening (mammography) or taking a small sample of breast tissue to be examined under a microscope (a biopsy). How is breast cancer treated? If cancer is detected at an early stage, it can be treated before it spreads to other parts of the body. It is treated using a combination of:

  • surgery

  • chemotherapy

  • radiotherapy

Depending on the breast cancer type, surgery is usually the first type of treatment you'll have, followed by chemotherapy or radiotherapy or, in some cases, hormone or targeted treatments. If it is discovered after it's spread to other parts of the body, it is not curable, so the aim of treatment is to relieve symptoms.

Living with breast cancer

Breast cancer can affect daily life in many ways. How one chooses to cope with the diagnosis and treatment varies from person to person. luckily, there are several forms of support available. Some forms of support may include:

  • family and friends, who can be a powerful support system

  • communicating with other people in the same situation

  • finding out as much as possible about your condition

  • not trying to do too much or overexerting yourself

  • making time for yourself

How can I prevent breast cancer? Since the causes of breast cancer are not fully understood. Prevention is a bit of a grey area. However, even though more studies need to be done, breast cancer can be linked to a healthy lifestyle. Most women are likely to decrease their risk if they:

  • maintain a healthy weight

  • exercise regularly

  • have a low intake of saturated fat

  • do not drink alcohol

In summary

As with any cancer, early detection and treatment is key. Breast cancer is easily treated and usually curable when detected in the earliest stages. Cancer can cause signs and symptoms, including skin changes on and around the breast. If you’re worried that your breast pain or tenderness could be something serious, make an appointment with your doctor today.

Stay informed, stay in control Did you learn something?

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