From Comments from Cynthia Chua, MD, OHC medical oncologist. Original article by Rachel Nall, RN, BSN, CCRN, Medical News Today.

August 24, 2018

A lump in the breast is just one of the possible signs of breast cancer in men or women. Sometimes there may be signs and symptoms of breast cancer without a noticeable lump in the breast. These symptoms may not be caused by cancer, but they might be.

“Anytime someone notices a change in their breast, they should check with their doctor,” said Cynthia Chua, MD, a medical oncologist with OHC who specializes in breast cancer. “It may not be cancer related, but it might, and the earlier cancer is caught, the better the outcomes.”

Here are some of the other possible signs and symptoms of breast cancer besides having a noticeable lump in the breast.

  1. Changes to the skin’s texture
    Breast cancer can cause changes and inflammation in skin cells that can lead to texture changes such as scaly skin around the nipple and areola, as though the skin is sunburned or extremely dry, and skin thickening in any part of the breast. These changes may also cause itching, which people often associate with breast cancer, although it is not common. These skin changes may be symptomatic of a rare breast cancer type called Paget’s disease. Texture changes can also occur as a result of benign skin conditions, including dermatitis and eczema.
  2. Nipple discharge
    A person may see discharge from the nipple, which can be thin or thick and can range in color from clear to milky to yellow, green, or red. It’s normal for people who are breastfeeding to have a milky discharge from the nipples, but if you aren’t breast feeding and you notice discharge, it’s best to see a doctor. Although most nipple discharge is noncancerous, it can signify breast cancer in some people. Other possible reasons for nipple discharge include breast infections, a side effect of birth control pills, a side effect of certain medications, variations in body physiology, and certain medical conditions, such as thyroid disease.
  3. Dimpling
    Skin dimpling can sometimes be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer, an aggressive type of breast cancer. Cancer cells can cause a buildup of lymph fluid in the breast that leads to swelling, dimpling, or pitted skin. It’s important that anyone who notices skin dimpling speaks with a doctor. Doctors call this change in the skin’s appearance “peau d’orange” because the dimpled skin resembles the surface of an orange.
  4. Lymph node changes
    Cancer cells may travel to the underarm lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small, rounded collections of immune system tissue that filter fluid and capture potentially harmful cells such as bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. If a cancer cell leaves the breast, the first place it travels to is the underarm lymph node region on the same side as the affected breast. This can lead to swelling in this area.
    In addition to swollen lymph nodes in the armpit, a person may notice them around the collarbone. They usually feel like small, firm, swollen lumps and may be tender to the touch. However, lymph tissue may also change due to breast infections or other completely unrelated illnesses. A person should talk to a doctor about these changes so that they can identify a potential cause.
  5. Breast or nipple pain
    Breast cancer can cause changes in skin cells that lead to feelings of pain, tenderness, and discomfort in the breast. Although breast cancer is often painless, it is important not to ignore any signs or symptoms that could be due to breast cancer. Some people describe the pain as a burning sensation.
  6. Nipple retraction or inversion
    Breast cancer can cause cell changes behind the nipple. These changes can cause the nipple to invert and reverse inward into the breast, or it may look different in terms of its size. Even though the appearance of the nipples can often change during ovulation or other times of the menstrual cycle, people should still see a doctor about any new nipple changes.
  7. Redness
    Breast cancer can cause changes to the skin that may make it appear discolored or even bruised. The skin may be red or purple or have a bluish tint. If a person has not experienced recent trauma to the breast to explain these changes, they should see their doctor. It’s also important to see your doctor if breast discoloration doesn’t disappear, even if trauma was the cause.
  8. Swelling
    Breast cancer can cause the entire breast or an area of the breast to swell. There may not be a distinct lump after this swelling, but the breast may be different in size than the other breast. Although it is possible for people to have breasts that are slightly different in size at all times, this swelling would cause a change from their usual breast size. The skin may also feel tight due to the swelling.

“If someone notices a change in their breast, they shouldn’t panic. Changes can be caused by many factors, especially aging. It’s just wise to know your body and your health, and when something seems off or different, call your doctor,” added Dr. Chua.

To learn more about breast cancer, contact OHC at 1-888-649-4800 or click Contact Us.


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