7 Early Warning Signs of Breast Cancer

breast_cancer

If you do your breast exams regularly and get your mammograms every year or two, you probably think you're being proactive about breast cancer. The problem is, looking for lumps isn't as easy as it sounds. Studies show that breast lumps often aren't detectable by feel (they're not "palpable," in doctor-speak) until they're at least 10 to 15 millimeters -- the size of a dime -- and then only 48 percent of the time. It's really not until a lump is 20 mm or more that you're certain to feel it. Meanwhile, mammograms also miss approximately one in ten tumors, and they're less reliable in younger women and women with dense breast tissue.

So what works to catch breast cancer early? Science is hard at work on the problem: In spring 2012, researchers in Canada announced the invention of a sophisticated new computer software system capable of analyzing mammograms for "architectural distortion" -- subtle but specific patterns in breast tissue that can appear more than a year before the development of a lump. But that technology is years away from general use. In the meantime, top breast cancer experts say women should become as familiar with their own bodies as possible and be alert for any changes. Here are some of the earliest and most surprising signs of breast cancer, as described by the women who know: breast cancer survivors themselves.

Breast cancer warning sign #1: Pain in the breast or chest

Whether it's an ache, throb, twinge, or sharp stab, pain or discomfort in the breast or chest area isn't a good sign.

How it feels: One breast cancer survivor describes the pain she brought to her doctor's attention as a "sharp pain that comes and goes." Another describes it as "a mild electric sensation that went from my left breast to my right nipple."

What causes it: Breast tumors can take many different forms; there can be a single lump, but there can also be an area of scattered seed-like tumors or an amorphous shape with multiple tentacles extending into the tissue. The tumor might also be directly behind the nipple or in one of the milk ducts. All of these growths cause different types of pain and discomfort.

Scary stat: As many as 30 percent of all breast cancer tumors aren't lumps, which makes them harder to detect.

What to do: Keep track of when, where, and how often the pain occurs. Tell your doctor, being as specific as possible. Make sure to be clear that this is a new symptom, different from any other sensation (such as the sore breasts of PMS) you've experienced before. If your doctor diagnoses mastitis and prescribes antibiotics (a typical response to breast pain), take the full cycle. But if the pain hasn't gone away, inform your doctor and ask for additional tests. Many women are told repeatedly that they have mastitis before they're able to make clear to the doctor that this isn't the case.

23 days ago, said...

Hi I'm 26 years old and I've been experiencing some of these symptoms. The first three. I've recently been to a doctor who prescribed me antibiotics to treat mastitis and to check back in one week. It's day 4 now but I still feel the same. My back has been hurting more recently. I'm really worried that I could be at risk of having cancer. I'm not sure what to do. Hi I'm 26 years old and I've been experiencing some of these symptoms. The first three. I've recently been to a doctor who prescribed me antibiotics to treat mastitis and to check back in one week. It's day 4 now but I still feel the same. My back has been hurting more recently. I'm really worried that I could be at risk of having cancer. I'm not sure what to do. Hide

about 1 month ago, said...

I am taking the alternative approach to breast cancer. I have had a type of biopsy where the hospital carried out 7 biopsy procedures and seemed to suck out the lumps in my breast. Has anyone else experienced this kind of treatment? I am taking the alternative approach to breast cancer. I have had a type of biopsy where the hospital carried out 7 biopsy procedures and seemed to suck out the lumps in my breast. Has anyone else experienced this kind of treatment? Hide

4 months ago, said...

Ive got a question. A few years ago myleft breast would leak sort of green stuff and right blood ..one time it was a bright red and poured out .no insurance at the time but eventualy it stopped.it hasnt happened in over a year but a few days ago i found a pea size lump on right side that is hard and doesnt move around.you can actually feel it through my shirt. Should i be worried? I also have back pain in mid spine that feels like burning that now has moved between my shoulder blades. I do... Show more Ive got a question. A few years ago myleft breast would leak sort of green stuff and right blood ..one time it was a bright red and poured out .no insurance at the time but eventualy it stopped.it hasnt happened in over a year but a few days ago i found a pea size lump on right side that is hard and doesnt move around.you can actually feel it through my shirt. Should i be worried? I also have back pain in mid spine that feels like burning that now has moved between my shoulder blades. I do have to mention i am premenstrual im 41 had to have left tube and ovary removed due to it was enlarged full of cyst one popped when doc was draining it sp he removed it. I have most the time now two periods a month.any thoughts? Hide

6 months ago, said...

I had a passed with breast lumps. had a biopsy done and everything seemed normal with the results the lump has grown a bit after that and now I am having sharp throbbing pain in my left breast and white discharge I asked my primary Doctor if it was normal she said not to worry about it. I had a passed with breast lumps. had a biopsy done and everything seemed normal with the results the lump has grown a bit after that and now I am having sharp throbbing pain in my left breast and white discharge I asked my primary Doctor if it was normal she said not to worry about it. Hide

8 months ago, said...

I have on and off breast pain, and tenderness, and I have felt a few lumps but heard its normal I have on and off breast pain, and tenderness, and I have felt a few lumps but heard its normal Hide

9 months ago, said...

I'm having a sharp pain in my right breast that turns into a burning sensation. It comes and goes and it happens it I touchy breast or I bump it on something. I'm 30 years old and pretty worried. Breast cancer runs heavily in my family. I'm having a sharp pain in my right breast that turns into a burning sensation. It comes and goes and it happens it I touchy breast or I bump it on something. I'm 30 years old and pretty worried. Breast cancer runs heavily in my family. Hide

11 months ago, said...

My Mother had breast cancer and so did I. It was very helpful to read this information. Thank you so much. My Mother had breast cancer and so did I. It was very helpful to read this information. Thank you so much.
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12 months ago, said...

I had a mammogram and it came back abnormal,im now scared and dont know what to do,to afraid to go back to the doctor. I had a mammogram and it came back abnormal,im now scared and dont know what to do,to afraid to go back to the doctor. Hide

12 months ago, said...

I have all 7 signs in left breast and my nipple feels wet at times I have all 7 signs in left breast and my nipple feels wet at times Hide

12 months ago, said...

I have a large lump in my breast and it hurts the mammogram should it as a dense breast I have a large lump in my breast and it hurts the mammogram should it as a dense breast Hide

about 1 year ago, said...

I have a lump in my right Breast that I recently was told is a cyst. I'm still nervous because my right arm Is sore below my shoulder and the lump is still there. Should I be worried still and if so what should I do? I have a lump in my right Breast that I recently was told is a cyst. I'm still nervous because my right arm Is sore below my shoulder and the lump is still there. Should I be worried still and if so what should I do? Hide

about 1 year ago, said...

I have a pinching sensation around my nipple area when anything rubs against it. I have a pinching sensation around my nipple area when anything rubs against it. Hide

about 1 year ago, said...

I am a male and have a knot in behind my nipple also have sharp pain itching and burning feeling I am a male and have a knot in behind my nipple also have sharp pain itching and burning feeling Hide

about 1 year ago, said...

I have had some of the tingling sensations and ignored it. Now my breast on one side is pretty itchy. I have been getting a lot of headaches lately & nausea for a few months. I'm not pregnant either. Time to go get checked. I'm 43 :/ I have had some of the tingling sensations and ignored it. Now my breast on one side is pretty itchy. I have been getting a lot of headaches lately & nausea for a few months. I'm not pregnant either. Time to go get checked. I'm 43 :/ Hide

about 1 year ago, said...

Melanie this info was very helpful. I love your format and coverage of each issue. All the best to you. Melanie this info was very helpful. I love your format and coverage of each issue. All the best to you. Hide

about 1 year ago, said...

Thank you so much! This info was very informative. This was the best step by step information about breast cancer I have found so far. I have not been diagnosed with bc, but my mamo/ultrasound came back with a very very small abnormality. My pcp wants mr to go back for another mamo to see if anything had changed. It been six months, and I will be going back shortly. Im not concerned, or worried that it might be cancer, and your article helped me a lot. Thank you Thank you so much! This info was very informative. This was the best step by step information about breast cancer I have found so far. I have not been diagnosed with bc, but my mamo/ultrasound came back with a very very small abnormality. My pcp wants mr to go back for another mamo to see if anything had changed. It been six months, and I will be going back shortly. Im not concerned, or worried that it might be cancer, and your article helped me a lot. Thank you Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

Ive been itching my left breast now for 6 months thinking it was just a rash with no visable signs of a rash? ive scratched at times making it bleed and now its scabbed with small scabs? Today ive noticed the electric sensation in the same place a few times traveling from the side of the breast to the nipple. Think its time i got checked out. Ive been itching my left breast now for 6 months thinking it was just a rash with no visable signs of a rash? ive scratched at times making it bleed and now its scabbed with small scabs? 
 Today ive noticed the electric sensation in the same place a few times traveling from the side of the breast to the nipple. Think its time i got checked out. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

I have a constant pressure like pain underneath my right breast. Its only on the one side. I don't know what it is I've googled it and a whole bunch of different stuff came up but didn't really answer my question. Can somebody help me figure it out? I have a constant pressure like pain underneath my right breast. Its only on the one side. I don't know what it is I've googled it and a whole bunch of different stuff came up but didn't really answer my question. Can somebody help me figure it out? Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

Recently been getting a sharp pain in right breast behind nipple. Also an indent in same breast and nipple seems to be lower. I'm 39 with no kids. Have Dr through week but am terrified now although maybe nothing. Am I right to be worried Recently been getting a sharp pain in right breast behind nipple. Also an indent in same breast and nipple seems to be lower. I'm 39 with no kids. Have Dr through week but am terrified now although maybe nothing. Am I right to be worried Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

I have noticed a change in breast size. My right breast has become significantly smaller. I don't feel any lumps. There is some pain when checking for lumps. Should I be concerned? I don't have a doctor and am not sure where to go. I am 69 and no family history of breast cancer. I have noticed a change in breast size. My right breast has become significantly smaller. I don't feel any lumps. There is some pain when checking for lumps. Should I be concerned? I don't have a doctor and am not sure where to go. I am 69 and no family history of breast cancer. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

Received my results and it's saying I have high Dense Tissue Breast. My first Aunt is a Cancer Survivor, so I am not sure if I should have further testing or not. Sometimes my right breast bothers me but I am not sure if it's in my head where they told me they found a lump. (Cyst). Anyone else have this problem would love to hear your feedback. Thanks Received my results and it's saying I have high Dense Tissue Breast. My first Aunt is a Cancer Survivor, so I am not sure if I should have further testing or not. Sometimes my right breast bothers me but I am not sure if it's in my head where they told me they found a lump. (Cyst). Anyone else have this problem would love to hear your feedback. Thanks Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

I Am experiencing 2 of the 7 early warning signs of breast cancer since taking black cohosh for night sweats. My Doctor is not open to me talking about my concerns since seeing a breast specialist who did a physical exam and checked my mammogram results which are normal. The second symptom happened six months after seeing him. I am concerned and have no one who will listen to me. I am considering paying for a private breast MRI. wish I could speak with others who have had the same symptoms... Show more I Am experiencing 2 of the 7 early warning signs of breast cancer since taking black cohosh for night sweats. My Doctor is not open to me talking about my concerns since seeing a breast specialist who did a physical exam and checked my mammogram results which are normal. The second symptom happened six months after seeing him. I am concerned and have no one who will listen to me. I am considering paying for a private breast MRI. wish I could speak with others who have had the same symptoms and what they did and what the outcome was. Hide