By Lori VandeVoort, FNP-C
Aspirus Three Lakes Clinic
Ask a woman to name a sign or symptom of breast cancer and chances are she’d say a lump in the breast.
She’d be right, of course. A new lump or mass is the most common symptom of breast cancer. But it’s not the only one. And because it’s best to find breast cancer early, it’s important to know all the possible signs and symptoms of the disease.
Being familiar with how your breasts look and feel is a key component of breast health. If you notice any of the following signs or symptoms in a breast, you should see a doctor right away:
•A lump. Cancerous breast lumps tend to be hard, painless and irregular (rather than rounded) around the edges.
•Swelling of all or part of a breast—or sometimes in the armpit or collarbone area—even if you can’t feel a lump.
•Irritated or dimpled breast skin.
•Breast or nipple pain.
•A nipple that points inward.
•Red, scaly or thickening nipple or breast skin.
•Nipple discharge, which may be bloody or clear.
Any of these signs and symptoms, including lumps, can be caused by things other than cancer. But only a doctor can tell for sure.
What happens next?
If you have a lump or breast change, your doctor will examine your breasts.
He or she may also order tests to take a closer look. These may include a diagnostic mammogram, which is just like having a screening mammogram except more x-rays are taken; a breast ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create an image of the inside of the breast; or a biopsy to check a sample of breast tissue for cancer.
It’s important to remember that breast changes are very common, and most are not cancer. But it’s crucial to get any follow-up tests your doctor orders.
Sources: American Cancer Society; National Cancer Institute
Aspirus Three Lakes Clinic is located at 6951 Michigan St., and is open 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. To make an appointment, call 715-546-2543.