Symptoms of breast cancer
The first symptom of breast cancer most people notice is a lump in their breast or some thickening.
Breast symptoms to look out for:
- a new lump or thickening in your breast or armpit
- a change in size, shape or feel of your breast
- skin changes in the breast such as puckering, dimpling, a rash or redness of the skin
- fluid leaking from the nipple in a woman who isn’t pregnant or breastfeeding
- changes in the position of the nipple
Most breast lumps are not cancer. Lumps that aren’t cancer are called benign lumps.
Most benign breast lumps are:
- areas of normal lumpiness. These are usually more obvious just before a period
- cysts. These are sacs of fluid in the breast tissue, which are quite common
- fibroadenoma. This is a collection of fibrous glandular tissue which is more common in women younger than 40
It is important to always get a breast lump checked by your GP. They will arrange for you to have tests to find out whether your lump is cancer or not.
A lump or swelling in your armpit
You can’t usually feel the
A less common cause of swollen lymph glands in the armpit is breast cancer that has spread to this area.
Change in the size, shape or feel of your breast
Breast cancer might cause your breast to look bigger or have a different shape than usual, it might feel different.
It can help to be breast aware. This means getting to know the size, shape and feel of your breasts.
Skin changes of the breast include:
The skin might look like orange peel or the texture might feel different. These skin changes can also be caused by other breast conditions.
Fluid leaking from your nipple
Fluid leaking from a nipple in a woman who isn't pregnant or breastfeeding can be a sign of breast cancer. But other medical conditions can also cause this.
Change in the position of your nipple
One nipple might turn in or sink into the breast. It might look or feel different than usual.
Breast pain is common and it’s not normally due to cancer. You might get pain in one or both breasts. This usually goes away after some time. There might be no obvious reason for this pain, even if you have a lot of tests.
Inflammatory breast cancer symptoms
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare type of breast cancer. It can have different symptoms to other more common types.
Your whole breast might look red, inflamed and feel sore. The breast might feel hard and the skin might look like orange peel.
Paget’s disease of the breast symptoms
This is a rare skin condition. Possible symptoms include a red, scaly rash on the nipple and surrounding area. This can be itchy and looks a bit like eczema.
Breast cancer in men
Breast cancer in men is rare. The most common symptoms include a lump in the breast that is nearly always painless and changes in the nipple.
Seeing your doctor
Your symptoms may not be due to breast cancer, and they may not make you feel unwell. But it is important that any symptoms you have are checked by a doctor, even if you are feeling well.
The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful.
Finding breast cancer with screening
Some women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have any symptoms. They are diagnosed after having a mammogram as part of their breast cancer screening programme.
Screening involves testing healthy people for signs that could be due to cancer. It aims to find breast cancers early when they are too small to see or feel. These small cancers are usually easier to treat than larger ones.
Pam was referred by her GP to the hospital. This is her story about her diagnosis and treatment.
"I noticed my left nipple was permanently inverted. I went to my GP as I knew this could be a warning sign of breast cancer. My doctor referred me to the local hospital for a 2 week One Stop Breast Service appointment."