Breast cancer is one of the most concerning types of cancer. Not only is it common, but it can also be deadly. Each year, more women are diagnosed with breast cancer than any other type of cancer, with an estimated 325,010 cases found annually. And 42,690 people die from breast cancer yearly. Do you know what breast cancer looks like when it begins? It’s hard to tell in many cases. To stay informed, it’s important to search online and learn about the facts of breast cancer.
It’s important to stay on top of your health, as cancers tend to be more treatable when they’re caught early. This is true of breast cancer. That’s why you should know what the signs and symptoms of breast cancer look or feel like – so you can spot any changes as soon as they begin. Search online to learn what the symptoms of breast cancer include.
Symptoms of Early-Stage Breast Cancer
The most common symptom of breast cancer? It’s one that can be hard to find.
Breast cancer is typically discovered when a new lump or mass forms. These lumps can have irregular edges and feel hard – but more often, they feel tender, soft, or round. They might even be painful.
That’s why it’s so important to keep an eye out for any changes in your breasts. This is the number one symptom of breast cancer, and it’s critical that you have any mass, lump, or even change checked out by a doctor.
However, there are other symptoms that you might experience. The following may also be symptoms of breast cancer:
- Swelling in all or part of the breast.
- Skin dimpling, which can make your skin look textured like an orange peel.
- Pain in the breast or nipple.
- Nipple retraction, or a nipple that’s turning inward.
- Redness, dryness, flaking, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin.
- Nipple discharge.
- Swollen lymph nodes, particularly under the arm or around the collar bone.
Keep in mind that these symptoms can also be signs of other conditions. The only way to know for sure whether they’re caused by breast cancer is to see your doctor for an examination and diagnostic testing.
Symptoms of Metastatic Breast Cancer
In some cases, breast cancer can spread beyond the breasts and their surrounding tissue, lymph nodes, or area of the body. In these cases, the cancer has metastasized, or spread to other organs and other areas.
Because metastatic breast cancer is much more widespread, this form of cancer can bring on very different symptoms. And those symptoms can vary widely, as they depend on where the cancer is present.
Commonly, breast cancer metastasizes into the bones, brain, liver, or lungs. As a result, symptoms can appear in any of these areas. While they might seem like problems that are not related to breast cancer, it’s important to get any symptoms checked out.
Metastatic breast cancer that’s metastasized in the bones can cause symptoms like:
- Severe and progressive pain throughout the body.
- Bones that can fracture or break easily.
Breast cancer that’s metastasized in the brain can bring on symptoms that may include:
- Persistent headaches or head pressure.
- Headaches or head pressure that gets progressively worse.
- Vision disturbances.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Changes to behavior or personality.
Metastatic breast cancer that’s metastasized in the liver might cause symptoms like:
- Itchy skin.
- Abnormally high liver enzymes.
- Abdominal pain.
- Loss of appetite.
- Nausea and vomiting.
Breast cancer that’s metastasized in the lungs can introduce symptoms that include:
- Chronic coughing.
- Inability to get a full breath.
- Abnormal chest x-rays.
- Pain in the chest.
In general, metastatic breast cancer can also cause some nonspecific symptoms. You might experience fatigue, weight loss, or a poor appetite. Because these symptoms can be caused by a number of different health conditions or even some medications, it’s important to talk with your doctor at the first sign of any changes.
Treating Breast Cancer at Any Stage
Once you’ve had your symptoms examined and assessed by a doctor, you’ll undergo screenings and diagnostic testing to determine if you have breast cancer. If you do have breast cancer, your doctor will then determine a plan for treatment.
Treating breast cancer can be treated in a few different ways. However, it’s important to keep in mind that breast cancer treatment varies depending on the location, stage, and other factors of your unique case.
Most commonly, individuals with breast cancer will have more than one type of treatment. Treatment options can include:
- Surgery to remove tumors or cancerous tissue.
- Chemotherapy, which uses medications to shrink or kill cancer cells.
- Hormonal therapy, which may block cancer cells from growing.
- Biological therapy to help the immune system fight off cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells.
Your doctor will work with cancer specialists, like an oncologist, to determine the best course of treatment for you.