Breast Cancer Symptoms

Due to the increased use of mammography, most women are diagnosed at very early stages of breast cancer before symptoms appear. However, not every breast cancer is detected through mammography.

Malignant (cancerous) breast lumps represent the uncontrolled growth of cells. It takes an estimated 5-10 years from the time a single cancer cell appears to the time it becomes one centimeter in size – the minimal size that a lump may be detected by physical examination.

If a cancerous lump is not detected and treated at an early stage in its growth, it can invade blood vessels and the lymphatic system (tiny channels that carry bloodless tissue fluid). The cancer travels, or metastasizes, through these systems to sites in the body where they continue to grow and destroy normal tissue.

If a cancerous lump is treated and detected EARLY in its development, before it reaches other parts of the body, the outlook for complete recovery is excellent. 

Today, the best way to assure early detection and treatment is through a combination of screening mammography, clinical examination and monthly breast self-examination.

The most common symptoms of breast cancer are a change in the look or feel of the breast, a change in the look or feel of the nipple and nipple discharge:

Warning Signs of Breast Cancer:
It is important to discuss any of the following symptoms with a healthcare provider as soon as possible so that if breast cancer is present, it is more likely to be diagnosed at an early stage when it is most treatable.

Sources: Susan G. Komen for the Cure, National Cancer Institute, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.