It’s worth noting that some women have breasts that are naturally different sizes. That’s perfectly fine! If you’ve had breasts that are slightly different all your life, there’s nothing to worry about. It only becomes a concerning problem when this difference is a recent change. It’s especially worth visiting a doctor if it seems to be getting worse.
Your Nipple's Color Has Changed
Nipples come in a wide variety of different colors, from dark brown to light pink, but a change in color in only one of your nipples is worth noting.
Most often, the nipple will get darker. This is a common change during pregnancy, and other diseases, like Paget’s disease, can also cause this.
Unfortunately, cancer can also cause a darkening of the nipple, especially if the mass is nearby. In that case, inflammation will cause the overlying skin of the breast to change color. This will make your nipple appear redder.
Occasionally, the nipple will get paler. This is not usually a cause for concern. This happens regularly to women in menopause.
You Have A Strange Discharge From the Nipple
There are several different kinds of nipple discharge. Some are normal, but others are more serious. Some can even be a sign of breast cancer.
First and foremost, if the discharge comes from both of your breasts instead of just one, that’s a good sign. Breast cancer is usually only present in one breast. If you are pregnant or were pregnant recently, discharge is also usually normal. This discharge appears translucent and has no odor or other problematic signs.
If the discharge is blood, that’s a significant issue, and you need to see a doctor immediately. Blood coming from the nipple is not normal and can be a sign of cancer.
Discharge is always worth a visit to the doctor if it's coming from only one breast, no matter what color it is.
You Have Breast Pain or Tenderness
Breast pain, also called mastalgia, is a very common symptom. Mastalgia can be caused by many different diseases, and sometimes it’s just a part of life. More often than not, it isn’t a sign of cancer. On rare occasions, though, it can be a harbinger of breast cancer.
It can present as a sharp, stabbing pain; a dull, blunt ache; or a burning sensation. There is no clear type of pain that is associated with breast cancer. Breast cancer pain usually only occurs fairly late in the course of the disease, and it’s quite rare to have mastalgia as the only symptom. Usually, breast pain caused by cancer will occur with several other symptoms on this list.
You Have Itchiness and Irritation
Everyone gets a little itchy. Itches that only last a day or two aren’t a cause for concern. A persistent itch from the breast, though, needs to be looked at.
When an itch is caused by breast cancer, it tends to feel like an aching, gnawing itch that scratching doesn't fix. It will get worse and worse. Usually, it's accompanied by some of the other symptoms in this article.
Your Breast Is Warm To the Touch
If your breast is warm to the touch, that’s usually a sign of inflammation. Inflammation is most often caused by mastitis, an infection of the breast tissue. That’s treated easily by a course of antibiotics that your doctor can prescribe. In most cases, that should clear up the problem.
If antibiotics don’t make the problem go away, breast cancer needs to be considered. In fact, there are subtypes of breast cancer that often present with substantial inflammation. Don’t wait if you have this symptom.
The Skin Around Your Breast Is Peeling or Flaking
Maybe the weather’s a little dry outside, or maybe you have a preexisting skin condition. In those circumstances, it’s normal for your breast skin to get a little flaky, especially if the rest of your skin is also dry.
In certain circumstances, though, it might represent breast cancer. Certain skin cancers, which can also grow on the breast, are especially likely culprits in these cases.
If the skin over your breasts is peeling or flaking, it needs to be looked at by a doctor.
Your Lymph Nodes Are Swollen
Lymph nodes swell for all sorts of reasons, including infection, inflammation and injury. They also swell because of cancer.
Lymph nodes are part of a very complicated network of fluid, called lymph, that travels throughout your body. The lymph in certain parts of your body drains into certain clusters of lymph nodes. For the breasts, their lymph drains into the lymph nodes in the armpit.
When a lymph node in your armpit is firm and large to the touch, that might be a sign of breast cancer. This only happens after the tumor has started to spread, so it can be an ominous sign.
Of course, it could also be a sign of many other diseases, so it’s important to talk to a doctor!
You Feel a Firm Lump Under the Skin
If you’re performing your regular self-exams, you might feel a lump under your skin. It can’t be overstated: the vast majority of these lumps are not breast cancer. But a small number of them will be, and for that reason, they need to be checked out.
If this lump is soft and mobile, there is less of a chance that it’s breast cancer, but it’s still possible.
If the lump is hard and firm, then there is a slightly higher chance that it is breast cancer.
Regardless, you need to get any new lumps checked out by a doctor. Usually, you will undergo a clinical exam and then a more in-depth study, often an ultrasound or a mammogram.
Take Breast Cancer Symptoms Seriously
Breast cancer is a big deal and needs to be taken seriously. That being said, it’s rare. Most people with some of the symptoms listed here won’t have breast cancer. They’ll have some other, more benign issue instead. That’s why worrying about these symptoms isn’t a good use of your mental energy, and it often does more harm than good. Instead, you should practice a proactive approach: Schedule an appointment with your doctor. The peace of mind is worth the hassle. Get these symptoms checked out in a way that’s safe for both you and your body.
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