Sometimes changes in the breast are not breast cancer at all; lumps or swelling in the breast tissue may come about from hormonal changes. Many lumps are the result of benign growths or cysts. However, women with these conditions have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Early stage breast cancer may not cause pain or discomfort. The best way to detect a potential problem early is to become familiar with your breasts so that changes can be readily identified. Routine self-breast exams done at home; clinical breast exams conducted in the doctor's office; and regular mammograms can help detect changes in breast tissue and identify areas of concern earlier when treatment is most effective and the chance for a cure the greatest. Having a baseline mammogram, beginning at age 40, can help keep track of changes that occur in the breast over time.
The American Cancer Society recommends annual screening using mammography and clinical breast examination for all women beginning at age 40. Mammograms can help detect 85 to 90 percent of all breast cancers, even before a lump can be felt.
Symptoms of breast cancer may include:
- Swelling in the armpit – This could be a sign of swollen lymph nodes, an indication that the body is fighting something off and indicate the need for further screening and evaluation
- A change in the size and shape of the breast
- Fluid leaking from only one nipple
- Change in the size of shape of the nipple
- Changes in color, shape or texture of the nipple or areola
- Unusual pain in only one breast or armpit that do not appear to be caused by regular cyclical changes
To learn more about breast health care at St. Luke’s University Health Network, call St. Luke’s InfoLink at 1-866-STLUKES.