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What Is Usually the First Sign of Breast Cancer?

What is breast cancer?

Women often find a lump in the breast or armpits as the first sign of breast cancer, but other symptoms like changes in breast skin or breast pain are also potential early signs.Women often find a lump in the breast or armpits as the first sign of breast cancer, but other symptoms like changes in breast skin or breast pain are also potential early signs.

Breast cancer is the disease in which the cells multiply at an abnormal rate and displace normal breast tissue.  When breast cancer spreads 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. Although breast cancer predominantly occurs in women, it can also affect men.

What is usually the first sign of breast cancer?

The common signs of breast cancer include:

  • A lump in the breast or in the armpits is often the first sign of breast cancer. This may be felt while in the shower. There may or may not be changes in the structure of the breast. Axillary (armpit) swelling  may indicate that cancer from the breast has traveled to the lymph nodes, and now there may be a lymph node invasion. 

Apart from above signs below are few other sign and symptoms: 

  • Changes in the nipple area, nipple retraction and inverted nipple are common warning signs of breast cancer
  • Bleeding from the nipple may be limited and difficult to see, but if an individual notices blood stains on the bra, or if the secretions are unusual, bloody or continuous, they may need urgent medical attention. 
  • Change in color and/or thickening of skin on the breast 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 with or without bleeding may be a warning sign of breast cancer 
  • Increased warmth in the breast with change in size and appearance of breast is a sign of breast cancer. 


A lump in the breast is almost always cancer.
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What are the different types of breast cancer?

Breast cancer usually begins either in glands that make milk (called lobular carcinoma), or the ducts that carry it to the nipple (called ductal carcinoma). 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. The cancer cells are confined to the ducts in the breast and haven’t invaded the surrounding breast tissue.
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS): LCIS is cancer that grows in the milk-producing glands of breast; it may 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 breast’s milk 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 milk-producing lobules of the breast and invades nearby tissues.
  • Paget disease of the nipple: This cancer begins in the ducts of the nipple, but as it grows, it begins to affect the skin and area of the nipple.
  • Phyllodes tumor: This very rare type of breast cancer grows in the connective tissue of the breast. It may be benign or cancerous.
  • Angiosarcoma: This cancer grows on the blood and lymph vessels in the breast.

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What are the treatment options for breast cancer?

Depending on the type and stage of cancer, treatments can vary. However, there are some common practices doctors and specialists use to combat breast cancer:

  • Lumpectomy is when the doctor removes the tumor while leaving the breast intact.
  • Mastectomy is when the doctor surgically removes all of the breast tissue including the tumor and connecting tissue including the lymph nodes.
  • Chemotherapy is the most common cancer treatment, and it involves the use of anticancer drugs. These drugs interfere with cells’ ability to reproduce.
  • Radiation uses X-rays to treat cancer directly.
  • Hormonal and targeted therapy can be used when either genes or hormones play a part in the cancer growth. This therapy targets the specific protein on the tumor cells.

What is the survival rate of breast cancer?

Breast cancer has a predicted 90% five-year survival rate. This means that 90 out of 100 people diagnosed with breast cancer are likely to live five years after their diagnosis. This does not mean an individual will die after five years, but a person may live for a minimum five years and more.


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