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The first symptom of carcinoma of the breast (breast cancer) most women notice is a lump or an area of thickening in their breast. The great majority of these lumps (9 out of 10 (90%)) are not malignant (cancerous), but it is always recommended to have any new breast lump checked by your doctor.
In particular, you must see your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:
    1) a lump or area of thickening in one or both breasts

    2) a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts

    3) discharge from either of the nipples (which may be blood stained)

    4) a lump or swelling in one or both of your axilla (armpits)

    5) dimpling on the skin of your breasts

    6) a rash on or around your nipple

    7) a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast (nipple flattening or inversion)
    8) pain in either of your breasts or armpits not related to your cycle (if you have not been through the menopause yet)


Breast lumps

The first symptom of breast cancer for many women is a lump in their breast. However, many women have benign (non cancerous) breast lumps and 9 out of 10 (90%) of breast lumps are benign. This means that they are not cancers.

Most benign breast lumps are:

    1) Areas of breast cell changes, causing lumpiness which is more obvious just before a period, particularly in women over 35

    2) Cysts – sacs of fluid in the breast tissue, which are quite common

    3) Fibroadenoma – a collection of fibrous glandular tissue (these are more common in younger women)

What to look out for

Changes that could be due to a breast cancer are

    1) A lump or thickening in an area of the breast

    2) A change in the size or shape of a breast

    3) Dimpling of the skin

    4) A change in the shape of your nipple, particularly if it turns in, sinks into the breast, or has an irregular shape

    5) A blood stained discharge from the nipple

    6) A rash on a nipple or surrounding area

    7) A swelling or lump in your armpit


Like breast lumps, these signs do not necessarily mean cancer. Inverted nipples, blood stained nipple discharge or a rash can all be due to other medical conditions. But if any of these things happen to you, you need to get it checked out. It is most likely to be a benign condition that can easily be treated and seeing the doctor will put your mind at rest. But if it does turn out to be a cancer, you give yourself the best chance of successful treatment by going to the doctor early on.

A rare type of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer can have different symptoms. The whole breast can look red and inflamed and can be very sore. The breast may feel hard. The skin sometimes looks like orange peel because the pores stand out in the inflamed area.

Another rare type of breast cancer shows up as a rash on and around the nipple. It is called Paget's disease of the nipple . The red, scaly rash can be itchy. It looks a bit like eczema and is sometimes mistaken for that at first.


If you find a lump

You should see your doctor straight away. If you notice anything unusual about your breast, have it examined. Even though most breast lumps are benign, they need to be checked to rule out cancer.

Your doctor will examine you and if necessary will send you to a specialist breast clinic for further checks. At the clinic, they will be able to see on your mammogram or ultrasound scan if the lump is a fluid filled cyst or a solid lump.

If it is a cyst, the doctor or nurse may get rid of it by draining the fluid out through a fine needle. If it is a solid lump, they will insert either a very fine needle into it and take some cells (FNAC), ot they will take a tissue biopsy (core biopsy) to test for cancer cells.

Some women prefer to have benign lumps removed to stop them from worrying that it may be a cancer. They may be concerned that they will confuse the benign lumps with any other lumps they may get in the future. But if you and your doctor are confident that the lump is benign, you don't have to have it removed if you don't want to. Benign lumps don't turn into cancer.

If your lump is a cancer, the earlier you have breast cancer treatment, the better your chance of cure.


Breast pain

Breast pain is very common and is not usually due to cancer. Many healthy women find that their breasts feel lumpy and tender before a period. And some benign breast lumps are painful. Many women get pain in their breasts for a while, which goes after a time. There may be no obvious reason for the pain, even with lots of tests. Most breast pain is not caused by cancer, but some breast cancers do cause pain, so if you are worried, you should go and see your doctor.