It is important for each and every one of us to know the symptoms of breast cancer. Why, you ask? Well, I think that at this point, most of us know that breast cancer affects approximately one out of every eight women in the U.S.. Yes ONE in EIGHT. Oh and it’s the second-deadliest cancer affecting women in the country. And people wonder why I call it f-bomb breast cancer.
The Silver Lining is that not every case of breast cancer turns out to be deadly, and improvements in medical care and technology have created many Silver Linings for women diagnosed with breast cancer (i.e., clean bills of health!). Early detection was key for me and can be for other people because it ensures the right treatment and increases the likelihood for a full recovery. This is why it’s so important to learn how to recognize the early signs of breast cancer.
Ok, so here are the ABC’s of Learning to Spot the Early Signs of Breast Cancer:
An annual mammogram will certainly help your doctor find any irregularities in your breast tissue, which can lead to an early diagnosis. Mammograms are recommended for all women over 40, and many doctors recommend that women start receiving them earlier, at 37 or even 35.
Aside from your yearly examination, however, there are many things you can do at home to keep track of the health of your breasts. Here are a few of the early signs of breast cancer that you can identify:
What to Watch For
- Unusual Nipple Change: You might notice a sore or ulceration, scabbing, burning, itching, dimpling, retraction, or some sort of abnormal discharge.
- Lumps or hard knots within the breast: Small lumps in the breast, underarm or armpit can be an early sign of breast cancer. If you have a lump, painless or otherwise, that persists more than 10 days, get checked.
- Pain or Tenderness: If you experience pain in the armpit, underarm or breast and you have not recently strained muscles in those areas, go to the doctor. This was what happened to me…and then I was able to feel a lump!
- Breast Changes: Flattening, indentation, dimples or puckered skin may signal the presence of a tumor that you cannot see or feel. Additionally, irregular changes in the size or shape of the breast and unexplainable changes in the texture, temperature or skin appearance of your breast are indications to go to the doctor for further assessment.
- Armpit Swelling: There are many lymph nodes in the armpit. These nodes connect to nodes in the breast and under the arm. Swelling is a sign of trouble and sometimes is an early sign of breast cancer.
- Other Signs: Two other early signs of breast cancer are areas under the skin that resemble marbles and any area on either breast that clearly looks different from any other area.
The way to identify all of these changes is through a routine self-examination. Your doctor or nurse can show you how to complete this exam. Once you’ve mastered the technique, you can give yourself a quick exam daily while showering, before bed, in the bathroom or whenever else it’s convenient for you. Just please – make sure to make it convenient!
The only way to know for sure whether the symptom you’re experiencing is one of the early signs of breast cancer or a different type of problem altogether is to confirm with your doctor. It’s best to play it safe and have any kind of irregularities checked out by a physician to rule out cancer or any other serious medical condition. Always, always, always remember to trust your intuition. This is KEY.
I’d love to hear from you. How did you find your cancer. Sharing this information, I find, is so helpful for people going through the experience. After all, it definitely takes a village to go through breast cancer!