Did you know that India, China, and the United States collectively account for one-third of the global incidences of Breast Cancer among women? This coupled with the high mortality rates for breast cancer (due to late detection), makes it a clear and present concern for women everywhere.
Breast cancer, in its preliminary stages, has few discernible symptoms. This is often postulated to be the primary reason for its late detection.
Early Warning Signs of Breast Cancer
Here are some early warning signs that can help you get a flying start in your race against this disease.
Look Out for Swellings Under Your Arm
A sudden hardening of the lymph nodes under your arm or neck could be a sign of breast cancer. Don't panic if you do find a swelling as it could easily be a sign of a simple infection. The best way forward, in either case, is to consult a doctor who will assess your symptoms and might ask you to get a simple biopsy examination to make an accurate cancer diagnosis.
Regularly Inspect Your Breasts for Lumps
Make it a point to routinely inspect your breasts for painless lumps, especially if they persist after your periods. This is one of the earliest signs of developing cancer and will require a physician consultation and mammogram for confirmation.
Look Out for Structural Changes in Your Breasts
While lumps are usually one of the early signs of breast cancer, you should also get a mammogram if you find other structural changes in your breasts like:
- Deformations in shape, like flattening or indentation
- Unusual increase or decrease in size, especially on a single side
- Change in symmetry
Irritation in Your Nipples
Your nipples are good indicators of impending disease. Look out for issues like:
- Inverted nipples (retraction)
- Dimples on the nipple
- Burning, itching or ulceration
- Scaly red coloured rashes
Non-pregnancy Related Discharges
While unusual nipple discharges are usually found to occur due to benign reasons it is important to get yourself checked if you find any clear or bloody discharge from your nipples as they could be early signs of cancer.
Pain or Tenderness in the Breast
While breast lumps are known to be relatively painless, it is important to get yourself tested if you are experiencing any pain or tenderness during your self-examination.
Any Change in the Size of the Breast
Finally, it is important to monitor your breasts for any changes in temperature, texture or contours. Some examples are,
- A reddish, pitted texture that feels like the surface of an orange
- A marble-like area under the skin
- Any areas that look or feel distinctly different from other areas
Avoid panicking or jumping to the worst conclusions if you feel like you have any of these symptoms in isolation. These self-examination tips are only intended to serve as early warning signs and will require clinical corroboration by a physician.