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7 Symptoms of Breast Cancer You May Not Know

October 18, 2023

A lump is one of the most common symptoms of breast cancer, but not the only one. Do you know others?

If you said “no”, you’re not alone.

A recent survey by Ohio State University found that while 93% of adults recognize a lump as a breast cancer symptom, less than half could name any other potential signs.

“Breast cancer doesn’t always cause a lump and, by the time it does, the cancer might have already moved beyond the breast into the lymph nodes, making it harder to treat effectively. It’s important to know other symptoms or breast cancer and to get annual screening mammogram,” says Valerie Brutus, MD, a breast cancer specialist with the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute seeing patients in Bridgeport, Trumbull and Wilton.

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7 symptoms of breast cancer you should know

Few patients will even feel a lump when it begins to form in their breast. So it’s important to look for other symptoms, such as:

  1. Swelling of all or part of a breast, even if no lump is felt.
  2. Skin dimpling. “Sometimes, it can look like an orange peel,” Dr. Brutus says.
  3. Breast or nipple pain.
  4. Retraction or turning inward of the nipple.
  5. Breast or nipple skin that is red, dry, flaking or thickened.
  6. Discharge, other than breast milk, from the nipple.
  7. Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or near the collar bone. This, she says, can sometimes be a sign that breast cancer spread even before the original tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt.

“Many of these symptoms can also be caused by a non-cancerous breast disease. It’s important to discuss any change to the breasts with a healthcare provider to find the cause and seek any necessary treatment,” Dr. Brutus says.

> Related: Younger Women Should Start Getting Mammograms, According to New Guidelines

When to see a doctor

Since breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women – with 1 in 8 women developing invasive breast cancer during their lifetime – she says it doesn’t hurt to ask your healthcare provider if you have a concern or notice a change.

“When breast cancer is diagnosed at an earlier stage, survival is greater and the treatments are less aggressive. More than 4 million women in the U.S. today have a history of breast cancer, so we know early detection does save lives,” Dr. Brutus notes.

“There is no reason to be scared. The treatment and survival rates for breast cancer continue to improve.”

Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute