Just like various other types of cancers, breast cancer may not exhibit any symptoms in the initial stages. The lump formed may be too small to be felt or seen, or there may be the absolute absence of pain. Any abnormality can only be detected by a mammogram and following tests.
For some people, breast cancer may be detected in the initial stages by the formation of a lump that is hard to touch and quite devoid of pain. Others may feel pain when feeling a soft lump in the breast. It makes sense therefore to get any lump in the breast to be examined, tested, and screened for cancer.
The American Cancer Society has listed the following as usual symptoms of breast cancer. The patient may experience any of these symptoms or more than one of them.
- A dimpling effect on the skin of the breast
- Inflammation in the region
- A lump in the armpit
- Abnormal discharge from the nipple
- Nipple turning inward
- Pain in the nipple
- Irritation of the breast
- Ruddiness and scaling or thickening of the skin of the area
Sometimes, these symptoms may also be indicators of other problems and less serious health issues. It is always prudent to be screened/tested for breast cancer in order to begin the right kind of treatment as soon as possible.
When breast imaging is done, the symptoms of cancer are (1) a lump of dense, spike-like tissues termed as speculated mass and (2) Microcalcifications grouped together tightly.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)
1 to 3% of all breast cancers is diagnosed as IBC. It is an invasive type of breast cancer that affects the skin of the breast. The breast appears swollen and reddish, as the lymphatic vessels in the skin of the breast are blocked. Instead of an increase of lumps, IBC grows in sheets and spreads rapidly.
IBC conditions generally do not respond to normal medicated creams, ointments, and antibiotics. The symptoms of IBC are
- Chronic and severe itching in the breast region that is not relieved by medications
- Extra warmth in the breast area
- The breast appears harder and more rigid than usual
- Change of color of breast skin, a more ruddy appearance
- The breast appears wrinkled and patched, resembling an orange peel
- The humps and ridges that appear on the breast appear to take on a hive-like appearance
- Unexplained pain of the affected breast
- A rapid increase in the breast size
- In the later stages, breast ulcers appear
When cancer spreads to other parts of the body (metastatic cancer) then these symptoms are seen
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained appetite loss
- Shallow breathing
- Intense bone pain
- Unexplained headaches