Symptoms and Diagnosis of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. About 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. The risk of breast cancer increases with age. Other risk factors for breast cancer include family history, genetics, and certain lifestyle factors.
The most common symptoms of breast cancer are:
- A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue.
- Change in the size, shape, or appearance of the breast.
- Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling, puckering, or redness.
- A nipple that is inverted (turned inward) or that has changed its position or appearance.
- Discharge from the nipple, especially if it is bloody or clear.
- Eczema or rash on the breast or nipple.
- Pain in the breast or armpit, especially if it is not related to your menstrual cycle.
It is important to note that not all breast cancers cause symptoms. Some breast cancers are found during a routine mammogram even though there are no noticeable signs or symptoms.
The following tests can be used to diagnose breast cancer:
- Breast self-examination (BSE): This is a way for women to check their own breasts for any changes. BSE is not a substitute for regular mammograms, but it can help women become familiar with their breasts and notice any changes early.
- Clinical breast exam (CBE): This is a physical exam of the breasts done by a doctor or other healthcare provider. The doctor will look and feel for any lumps, changes in the skin, or other abnormalities.
- Mammogram: This is an X-ray of the breasts. Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it is most treatable.
- Ultrasound: This uses sound waves to create images of the breasts. Ultrasound can be used to help determine if a lump is solid or fluid-filled.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the breasts. MRI can be used to help diagnose breast cancer, especially in women with dense breasts.
- Biopsy: This is a procedure in which a small sample of tissue is removed from the breast and examined under a microscope by a pathologist. A biopsy is the only way to definitively diagnose breast cancer.
The staging of breast cancer is determined by how far the cancer has spread. Stage 1 breast cancer means that the cancer is small and only in the breast tissue or it might be found in lymph nodes close to the breast. It is an early stage breast cancer.
The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the chances of a cure. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about your breast health and get regular screening tests.
Here are some additional information about breast cancer:
- There are many treatments available for breast cancer, including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy.
- The outlook for women with breast cancer is improving, thanks to early detection and better treatments.