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11 Breast cancer symptoms

The initial symptoms of breast cancer are mainly associated to changes in the breast, especially the appearance of a small painless lump. However, many of the nodules that arise in the breast are benign and, therefore, are not cancer.

If you suspect you may have breast cancer, select your symptoms and see what your risk is:

  1. 1. Nodule or lump that doesn't hurt
    Yes
    No
  2. 2. Changes to the color or shape of the nipple
    Yes
    No
  3. 3. Liquid discharge from the nipple
    Yes
    No
  4. 4. Changes to break skin, like redness or hardened skin
    Yes
    No
  5. 5. Swelling or changes in size of one of the breasts
    Yes
    No
  6. 6. Frequent itching in the breast or nipple
    Yes
    No
  7. 7. Changes in color or shape of the aerola
    Yes
    No
  8. 8. Scab formation or wounds near the nipple
    Yes
    No
  9. 9. Easily observed veins that increase in size
    Yes
    No
  10. 10. Presence of a furrow or sinking in a region of the breast
    Yes
    No
  11. 11. Lumps or swollen lymph nodes in the underpits
    Yes
    No
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The best way to identify these changes is to seek a mastologist and do a regular breast self-examination because it will help you to have a better understanding of your breast anatomy and can aid in identifying small changes as soon as they arise. This type of examination is important in both men and women.

11 Breast cancer symptoms

The symptoms mentioned above may occur simultaneously or isolated, and may be symptoms of early or advanced breast cancer. The presence of any of these symptoms does not necessarily mean the existence of breast cancer, but you should make an appointment with a mastologist so that it can be evaluated and checked to see if it is a benign nodule or an breast tissue inflammation, which requires treatment.

Who can have breast cancer

Breast cancer can emerge in both men and women alike, and those at greater risk are:

  • People with more than 50 years of age;
  • Family history of breast cancer;
  • Obesity and sedentary lifestyle;

In addition, there are also genetic changes that may increase the tendency to develop this type of cancer, such as those that occur in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. However, there are genetic tests that can be done to help identify the presence of these mutations to your genes, which can be beneficial so that measures can be taken before cancer arises and in turn can help to avoid cancer.

Breast cancer symptoms in men

The symptoms of male breast cancer are similar to the symptoms of breast cancer in women, so when men verify there is some kind of breast change, it is important to see a mastologist to diagnose the problem and start the appropriate treatment.

11 Breast cancer symptoms

Major types of breast cancer

There are several different types of breast cancer, depending on its development, some of which are more aggressive than others. The main ones are:

  • In situ ductal carcinoma (CDIS): is a type of early-stage breast cancer that develops in the ducts and so has a high chance of cure;
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS): It is the second most common type in women and is also in its early stages, but it is located in the milk-producing glands. This type is less aggressive and easy to treat;
  • Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC): This is the most common type of breast cancer and is found out at a later stage when the cancer has started in the milk-producing gland but has spread outward and can create metastases.
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC): It is rarer and often more difficult to identify. This type of cancer may also be related to the onset of ovarian cancer;
  • Inflammatory breast carcinoma: It is an aggressive but very rare cancer.

In addition to these types of breast cancer, there are also others that are even rarer, such as spinal cord carcinoma, mucinous carcinoma, tubular carcinoma or malignant phyloid tumor.

How to prevent breast cancer

The symptoms of advanced malignant breast cancer include the worsening of the symptoms and lesions referred above but also other signs not related to the breasts such as nausea, bone pain, loss of appetite, severe headaches, and muscle weakness. Generally, these symptoms are caused because advanced cancer can cause metastases from malignant cells to other organs of the body such as lungs and brain, so they should be evaluated by a mastologist and clinical oncologist as soon as possible. 

How to prevent breast cancer

Breast cancer prevention is done by following a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, it is recommended you have a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables, do regular physical exercises, avoid excessive consumption of alcohol and to eliminate cigarettes.

However, to effectively prevent this type of cancer, regular mammography is required. Ideally, mammography should be done annually between 50 and 69 years of age, but the guidelines indicate that this time can be extended up to 2 years between each test, especially if the woman does not have any risk factors or breast changes. Women over 35 and risk factors should have mammograms every year.

In addition, it is also important to perform monthly breast self-examination 3 to 5 days after the end of menstruation. The importance of self-examination is always remembered in the government's annual campaigns, known as pink October.

Bibliography >

  • LOWDERMILK, Deitra L. et al. Saúde da Mulher e Enfermagem Obstétrica. 10.ed. Rio de Janeiro: Elsevier, 2013. 214-217.
  • GOLDMAN, Lee; SCHAFER, Andrew I. . Goldman-Cecil Medicine . 25.ed. Rio de Janeiro: Elsevier, 2018. 1378.
  • SOGIMIG. Manual de Ginecologia e Obstetrícia. 5.ed. Belo Horizonte: Coopmed, 2012. 335-342.
  • HIPOLABOR. OUTUBRO ROSA: CONHEÇA 5 TIPOS DE CÂNCER DE MAMA E OS PRINCIPAIS TRATAMENTOS. Available on: <https://www.hipolabor.com.br/blog/2018/10/25/outubro-rosa-conheca-5-tipos-de-cancer-de-mama-e-os-principais-tratamentos/>. Access in 23 Oct 2019
  • CANADIAN CANCER SOCIETY. Breast Cancer: understanding your diagnosis. 2015. Available on: <https://www.cancer.ca/~/media/cancer.ca/CW/publications/Breast%20cancer%20UYD/32064-1-NO.pdf>. Access in 23 Oct 2019
  • AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY. Breast Cancer Early Detection and Diagnosis. 2019. Available on: <https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/CRC/PDF/Public/8579.00.pdf>. Access in 23 Oct 2019
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