Breast Cancer- Early Signs and Symptoms

In today’s time and age, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer afflicting women post the age of 20. In the last few decade millions of dollars have been spent on research based on breast cancer. It was estimated that nearly 1.4 million new cases of invasive breast cancers were present all over the world in 2008. The last three decades have observed an alarming increase in the number of breast cancer cases with maximum cases being reported in the developed western nations. The main reasons for this new development is said to be change in dietary habits, lifestyle changes, delayed pregnancy and sedentary lifestyles.   The cancer is more common is women who  
  • Haven’t been pregnant
  • Never breast fed their children
  • Were under hormonal therapy for a longtime (e.g. oral contraceptive pills).
  • Women who are chronic smokers
  • Recovered from some other form of cancer
Though the disease is fatal, if detected at an early stage, it can be cured and lives can be saved. In the recent times, early detection has increased the survival rates particularly in young women. Unlike other forms of cancer which are usually asymptomatic in the early stages, this form of cancer has physical manifestations, which can be detected by the patient on self examination. Therefore it is important to self examine every month.  
  1. Flat or inverted teat: An otherwise normal teat appears to have sunk into the breast and hence appears flat or inverted.
  2. Itchy breast or teats: The teat area starts itching all of a sudden. Usually women do not pay much of attention to this symptom. But an itchy teat needs immediate medical attention to rule out breast cancer.
  3. Dimpled skin: The skin around the teat appears to be dimpled and starts resembling the skin of an orange peal. This should not be confused with cellulite which is excess fat.
  4. Abnormal swelling in the breast- Usually during menstrual cycle, the breast appears to be swollen and feels tender. This occurs due to hormonal imbalance. Post the menstrual cycle, the breast returns to their normal state. If they still remain tender and swollen, it is a cause for worry and needs medical intervention.
  5. Sudden increase in the breast size: This is another characteristic symptom of breast cancer. There is an abnormal increase in the size of the breast which is not in proportion to the rest of the body. At times the size of only one breast increases.
  6. Change in color: The breast appears red or botchy. Usually it appears as if there are too many rashes around the breast. This is a symptom of inflammation in the breast (inflammatory breast cancer). This type of cancer is dangerous as it cannot be detected even after a mammography or self breast examination.
  7. Lump: Presence of a painless lump anywhere in the breast which can be found on examination of breast.
Due to increased awareness and breast cancer education, breast cancer mortality has decreased, though breast cancer incidences have increased.
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