What are the Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer?

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Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women; 1 in 8 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with the disease. Mammograms are effective methods of screening and diagnosing the disease even before symptoms arise, but it is still important to be aware of the signs and symptoms that may indicate cancer.

Some common signs and symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • A mass or lump on the breast
  • Dimpling of the nipple
  • Asymmetry
  • Bumps in the armpits

Inflammatory breast cancer, a rare form of the disease, is often confused with an infection of the breast called mastitis. These signs and symptoms can differ from other breast cancers, and may include:

  • Swelling of the breast
  • Redness of the skin on the breast
  • Breast being warm to the touch

You should see your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms. Frequently, they can be the result of a benign condition, not cancer—but knowing your body and what is normal for you is important.

According to Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH, only 5 to 10 percent of people with breast cancer will have had a genetic predisposition to the disease—meaning that they inherited a gene that significantly increased their likelihood of being diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

With that said, women who have a first-degree degree relative diagnosed with breast cancer, i.e., a mother or a sister, should discuss this with their doctor. These women may have an increased risk of breast cancer, and might benefit from more frequent screening, or screening beginning at a younger age, explains Freedman.

“Most changes in breasts are not related to cancer,” Freedman says, “but it’s always important to alert health care providers about any changes that you see or feel.”

Learn more about breast cancer from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

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