Checking for Breast Cancer

Checking for Breast Cancer

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When checking your breasts it is important to know exactly what to look out for, while lumps are the most well known symptom of breast cancer there are other changes to be aware of and look out
for too. To help provide some guidance on exactly what to look out for, Jennifer Hu, Oncoplastic and Reconstructive Breast Consultant at The Lister Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK, outlines some of the lesser known symptoms of the disease.

Changes in breast size, shape and texture

Jennifer Hu says: “Breasts can change in size and texture for a number of reasons, such as menstruation or pregnancy, which is why it’s important for women to identify what level of fluctuation is normal for them. However, if you have noticed that one breast has changed shaped or feels unusually hard or heavy, you should get this checked out as sometimes this can be a symptom of breast cancer.”

Skin changes

Jennifer Hu says: “Whilst examining your breasts, it’s important to pay attention to the appearance of the skin. I recommend checking in front of a mirror, so that you can properly examine every area of the breast, including the parts that are slightly more difficult to see normally. Again, changes in the skin can be for a variety of reasons but in some cases it can be a sign of breast cancer, so it is important to get examined by a breast specialist. Specifically, you should look out for skin dimpling; an indentation of an area of the breast skin. This can have the appearance of an orange peel (peau d’orange) or any ulcer that is not healing.”

Constant, unusual pain in your breast or armpit

Jennifer Hu says: “The majority of women experience breast pain in their lives, but breast pain, in the absence of any other symptoms, is an unlikely symptom of breast cancer. However, if you are experiencing unexplained, prolonged pain in the breast or armpit, then you should seek medical consultation.”

Nipple changes

Jennifer Hu says: “When checking your breasts, it’s important to pay attention to the nipple too, as breast cancer signs can present here too. The nipple could appear as though it’s been pulled into the breast, or it could just look slightly different to how it usually does; perhaps a change in its position or shape. This can be a particular concern if the symptom comes on suddenly and is unexplained.

Another important symptom to look out for is discharge or any liquid leaking from the nipple, especially if this is a reddish colour. If you notice discharge from your nipple you should seek medical advice quickly as this can be an indication of breast cancer.”

Unusually warm or pink skin

Jennifer Hu says: “A rare form of breast cancer (inflammatory breast cancer) can mimic breast infection (mastitis or breast abscess) i.e. breast warmth, redness, swelling, itching and discomfort. This may be accompanied by raised, painful lymph nodes under the arm (on the same side as the effected breast)

It is essential to seek an urgent medical opinion if you experience these symptoms.”

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