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What Are the Five Warning Signs of Breast Cancer?

What is breast cancer?

A lump in the breast or armpit, changes in breast skin and changes to the nipple are all potential early warning signs of breast cancer.A lump in the breast or armpit, changes in breast skin and changes to the nipple are all potential early warning signs of breast cancer.

When the cells of the breast tissue grow at an abnormal rate and their growth cannot be controlled by the body’s immune system, it is called breast cancer.  When the cancer cells spread to other parts of the body, it is called metastasized breast cancer. Breast cancer and its complications can affect nearly every part of the body. Breast cancer affects men as well, but at far lower rates.

What are the five warning signs and symptoms of breast cancer?

The majority of breast cancer patients first seek diagnosis because of a lump on the breast. This is one of the five warning signs of breast cancer:

Breast lump: A hard, fixed mass or lump felt anywhere in the breast.

Changes to the nipple and the surrounding area: Changes in the nipple area, nipple retraction and inverted nipple are common warning signs of breast cancer. Bloody discharge from the nipple is another warning sign. 

Change in color and/or thickening of skin on the breast: Any dimpling or thickening of breast skin that resembles an orange rind is a warning sign of breast cancer. If the breast skin changes color, typically to a pink or reddish hue that covers more than half the breast that may also be a warning sign.

A non-healing sore anywhere on the breast, including the nipple: A red, scaly, flaky nipple, and any persistent skin change, including blood or fluid from the nipple with non-healing sore, may be a warning sign of breast cancer 

Swelling of axillary lymph nodes (lymph nodes in the armpit): Many patients who end up diagnosed with breast cancer have swelling of lymph nodes in the armpit, they may or may not have changes in the structure of the breast, but they come in for a consult because they feel lump under their arm. This may mean that cancer from the breast has traveled to the lymph nodes, and now there is lymph node invasion. 

What are the different types of breast cancer?

Breast cancer usually begins either in glands that produce milk (called lobular carcinoma), or the ducts that carry it to the nipple (called ductal carcinoma). It can grow larger in the breast and spread to nearby lymph nodes or through your bloodstream to other organs. 

The cancer may grow and invade other areas around your breast, such as your skin or chest wall. Different types of breast cancer grow and spread at different rates. Some take years to spread beyond your breast, while others grow and spread quickly. 

There are several types of breast cancer, and they are broken into two main categories: “invasive” and “noninvasive,” (in situ). These two categories are used to describe the most common types of breast cancer, which include:

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS): DCIS is a noninvasive condition. With DCIS, the cancer cells are confined to the ducts in the breast, and have not invaded the surrounding breast tissue.
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS):  LCIS is cancer that grows in the milk-producing glands of breast. Like DCIS, the cancer cells do not invade the surrounding tissue.
  • Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC): It is the most common type of breast cancer. This type of breast cancer begins in the milk producing ducts and then invades nearby tissue in the breast. Once the breast cancer has spread to the tissue outside milk ducts, it can begin to spread to other nearby organs and tissue.
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma: It first develops in breast’s tubes and invades nearby tissues.
  • Paget disease of the nipple: This type of breast cancer begins in the ducts of the nipple, but as it grows, it begins to affect the skin and areola of the nipple.
  • Phyllodes tumor: This very rare type of breast cancer grows in the connective tissue of the breast. Most of these tumors are benign, but some are cancerous.
  • Angiosarcoma: This cancer that grows on the blood and lymph vessels in the breast.

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