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Early breast cancer usually does not cause physical pain, and symptoms may not initially be noticeable. As the cancer grows, it can cause changes that include:

  • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area
  • A change in the shape or size of the breast
  • Nipple discharge or tenderness
  • Inverted nipple
  • Ridges or pitting of the breast (resembling the skin of an orange)
  • A change in the way the skin of the breast, nipple, or areola (dark area surrounding the nipple), looks or feels (for example, warm, swollen, red, or scaly)
  • A sore or ulcer on the breast that does not heal

If you notice any of the above symptoms, contact your doctor immediately for an examination.

These symptoms are often associated with breast cancer that has progressed from its earliest stages. Mammography can often detect a breast cancer before it is large enough to produce any of these symptoms. For this reason, regular mammograms are recommended, making it more likely that breast cancer will be detected at its earliest and most curable stages.

References:

Breast cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov. Accessed January 27, 2006.

Breast cancer. Womens' Health.gov website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/. Accessed January 27, 2006.

National Breast Cancer Coalition website. Available at: http://www.natlbcc.org. Accessed January 27, 2006.

Last reviewed September 2012 by Mohei Abouzied, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.