Symptoms of Breast Cancer

The most commonly and easily recognized symptom of breast cancer is a lump or mass in the breast tissues. It can be on one or both sides of the breasts. The lumps can be easily identified. Most women rush to the doctor after seeing a lump on their breasts.

But still, every female should be aware of other possible changes in the breast or nipple during breast cancer.

With the different types of breast cancer comes a list of related symptoms.

For example, in the case of invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) is formed in the milk ducts and may cause a distinct breast lump that the female can feel.

On the other hand, Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC), forms in the milk-producing glands and may cause a thickening in the breast.

Early warning signs of a Breast Cancer

Symptoms of breast tumors vary from female to female. Some common early warning signs and symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • Skin changes, like swelling, redness, or other visible differences in single or both breasts.
  • Increase in size or shape of the breast or breasts.
  • Change in the appearance of single or both the nipples
  • Discharge from the nipples, other than breast milk
  • Pain inside or on any part of the breast
  • Lumps or nodes that can be felt in or on the breast

Symptoms more specific in case of invasive breast cancer are:

  • Irritation or itching breasts
  • A visible change in breast color
  • Increase in size of the breasts in a short period of time
  • Change in breast shape
  • Changes in the breast which can be felt upon touching, the breasts may feel hard, tender or may feel warm
  • Peeling or flaking skin on or around the nipple skin
  • A breast lump or thickening can be felt
  • Redness or pitting of the skin of the breast resembling an orange 

It’s important to remember that other bodily conditions may have caused such changes.

For example, changes to the skin texture on the breast may be caused by a skin condition like eczema, and swollen lymph nodes may be caused by an infection in the breast or another, unrelated illness.

Seeing a doctor for evaluation and diagnosis will help you determine whether something you notice is cause for concern or not.

Also Read: TNM Staging System for Breast Cancer

Symptoms of Various Types of Breast Cancers :

Invasive breast cancer 

  • Lump or mass in the breast
  • Swelling or lumps in one or various part of the breast, even if there is no lump felt or visible
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Retraction of Nipple, the nipples turn inwards
  • The nipple or breast skin look red, scaly, or thickened
  • Nipple discharge
  • A lump or swelling in the underarm lymph nodes

Ductal carcinoma in situ  

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) does not cause any symptoms. Rarely, a woman may feel a lump in the breast or nipple discharge. However, most cases of DCIS are detected with a mammogram.

Lobular carcinoma 

Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) does not cause symptoms and cannot be seen with a mammogram. This condition is usually found when a doctor is doing a breast biopsy for another reason, such as to investigate an unrelated breast lump. If a person has LCIS, the breast cells will appear abnormal under a microscope.

Inflammatory breast cancer symptoms

Unlike other breast cancers, inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) rarely causes breast lumps and may not appear on a mammogram. Inflammatory breast cancer symptoms include:

  • Red, swollen, itchy breast that is tender to the touch
  • The surface of the breast may have a ridged or pitted appearance, resembling an orange peel
  • Heaviness, burning sensation or aching in one breast
  • One breast is visibly larger than the other
  • An inverted nipple (facing inward)
  • No mass can be felt with a breast self-exam
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm and/or above the collarbone
  • Symptoms unresolved after a course of antibiotics

Unlike the other types of breast cancers, inflammatory breast cancer usually does not cause a visible, distinct lump in the breast.

Therefore, a breast self-exam, clinical breast exam, or even a mammogram may not detect inflammatory breast cancer.

Ultrasounds may also miss inflammatory breast cancer. However, the changes to the surface of the breast caused by inflammatory breast cancer can be seen with the naked eye.

Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer can develop rapidly, and the disease can progress quickly. Any sudden changes in the texture or appearance of the breast should be reported to your doctor immediately.

For women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, redness, swelling, itchiness, and soreness are often signs of a breast infection such as mastitis, which is treatable with antibiotics.

If you are not pregnant or nursing and you develop these symptoms, your doctor should test for inflammatory breast cancer.

Metastatic breast cancer 

Metastatic is the fourth stage of Cancer. Metastatic breast cancer symptoms depend on the part of the body to which cancer has spread and its stage. Sometimes, metastatic disease may not show any symptoms.

  • If cancer has spread till the breast or chest wall, symptoms may include pain, nipple discharge, or a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm.
  • If the bones are affected, symptoms may include pain, fractures, constipation or decreased alertness due to high calcium levels.
  • If tumors form in the lungs, symptoms may include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, coughing, chest wall pain or extreme fatigue.
  • If the liver is affected, symptoms may include nausea, extreme fatigue, increased abdominal girth, swelling of the feet and hands due to fluid collection and yellowing or itchy skin.
  • If breast cancer spreads to the brain or spinal cord and forms tumors, symptoms may include pain, confusion, memory loss, headache, blurred or double vision, difficulty with speech, difficulty with movement or seizures.

Papillary carcinoma 

Although papillary carcinoma may not be present, a routine mammogram can help detect its development. For those who do experience symptoms related to this type of cancer, the following may be common:

  • Mass: Papillary carcinoma is most often detected as a cyst or lump of about 2 cm to 3 cm in size that may be felt with the hand during a breast self-exam.
  • Nipple discharge: About 50 percent of papillary carcinomas occur beneath the nipple, resulting in bloody nipple discharge.

 Triple-negative breast cancer symptoms

The triple-negative breast cancer looks the same as the other breast cancers, but  it has several unique symptoms including:

  • Receptor status: Tests that detect receptors for estrogen, progesterone, and HER2 will be negative, which means hormone therapy, a traditional breast cancer treatment, is not effective. Instead, triple-negative breast cancer treatment options will include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and radiation.
  • More aggressive: There is a greater tendency to spread and recur after the treatment as compared to other breast cancer types. This risk decreases after the first few years following therapy.
  • Cell type and grade: Triple-negative breast cancer cells are considered as “basal-like,” which means that they resemble the basal cells which line the breast ducts. The cells may also be a higher grade, which means that they no longer resemble normal, healthy cells.


breast cancer survivor

For all females out there, it is important to have a clear picture of the symptoms of various types of breast cancers. Breast Cancer is the most common cancer among females.

If diagnosed in time, the disease can be cured and controlled. Regular self-screening tests are suggested to check for any irregularity in the shape, size, texture or color of the breasts.

In case you suspect anything abnormal, get an appointment with Pristyn Care and consult our specialized doctors. 

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