Know the Possible Signs & Symptoms of Breast Cancer

You've probably heard or read the statistic by now: About 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime.

Treatments work best when breast cancer is caught early. That's why it's important to get screened regularly for the disease if you're 45 or older. But it's equally as important to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer at any age, since even younger women can — and do — get the disease.

Be On the Lookout — and Speak Up

Any changes to the look or feel of your breasts shouldn't be ignored. Chances are, something other than cancer is the cause. But it's always best to let your primary care practitioner know if you're having any of the following possible signs or symptoms of breast cancer:

  • A lump or thickening in or near a breast or in the underarm area.
  • A change in the size or shape of a breast.
  • A dimple or puckering in the skin of a breast.
  • A nipple that has turned inward or a sore near the nipple.
  • Fluid, other than breast milk, leaking from a nipple, especially if the fluid is bloody or leaks from only one breast.
  • Skin irritation or changes — such as puckering, dimpling, scaliness, or new creases — anywhere on a breast, nipple, or areola (the dark area of skin around the nipple).
  • Dimples in a breast that look like the skin of an orange.
  • Pain in a breast, especially if the pain doesn't go away.

Your practitioner will ask you how long and how often you've been experiencing these signs and symptoms. They'll also examine your breasts. And if necessary, they may take a sample of your blood and order tests like a mammogram, an ultrasound, or a breast MRI. You may need a biopsy if results of those tests suggest something suspicious.

The thought of having breast cancer can be scary. But try to remember that other conditions can cause changes to your breasts. That's why it's always best to see your practitioner and get a diagnosis.