Signs and Symptoms of cancer

A 'lump' is a very common term, implying, a 'knot' or a 'mass' or a 'hard feeling' in the breast. Different women will have different interpretation of lumps. So here we discuss, what exactly is a lump? How to look out for a lump? And what to look out for, when examining for a lump.

The following way of explanation may sound very funny, but honestly, many women do not understand what a lump feels like and how to look out for one. Analogy is the best way to explain a lump. Hence an attempt to explain a bit in detail on how to watch out for a lump.

Common symptoms and signs of breast cancer

Follwing are the commonest signs and symptoms in case of a breast cancer. It is advisable that if you are reading the signs and symptoms below, you also go through the details of those symptoms which have been explained here, by clicking on that symptom in the menu on the left

A painless lump in the breast

A 'lump' or a hard 'knot' in the breast is the most common symptoms of breast cancer. And in a majority of the cases, this lump is painless, as a result of which women tend to ignore it. To note, even non cancerous lumps are painless and feel hard. In the younger age group, most such painless lumps will be 'fibroids'. Fibroids are not cancerous and do not turn into cancers. Beyond 30 years of age, the chances of developing fibroids becomes lesser, and any lady above 30 years of age, with a painless lump, must get it evaluated from a surgeon, experienced in breast diseases. To read more about lumps, Click Here

Recent retraction or indrawing of the nipple

Tumour which occur just below the nipple and areola, tend to pull the nipple 'inwards' and that nipple appears retracted, as compared to opposite nipple. The important term here is 'recent' retraction, since many women have retracted nipples since they were young.

Dimpling on the skin or retraction

The surface of the skin becomes hard and thick and one can see the opening of pores on the skin. Occasionally, there may be a small 'reverse bump', where the skin is pulled inside by the tumour, causing a 'pit' on the surface. To understand more about skin changes, Click Here

Bloody or blood stained Nipple Discharge

Nipple discharge is a farily common symptom. The colour of the discharge gives a rough idea about the underlying problem. White, green or yellowish discharges occur in non cancerous conditions and need not be a cause of worry. However, a 'blood stained' discharge or 'bloody' discharge are always a cause of concern and need immediate attention. To read more on nipple discharges, Click Here

Changes in the nipple

There may be a change in the direction of the nipple, due to pull by a tumour below it. Occasionally, the nipple becomes 'scratchy' or having eczema, which could be a sign of cancer.

Hard nodules on skin

In advanced cancers, there are hard nodules on the skin. They feel very 'hard' as compared to the rest of the skin around.

Swelling in the armpit

Breast cancers 'spread' to the 'lymph nodes' in the arm pit. Sometimes, the tumour in breast is very small and not felt easily, but there are enlarged 'nodes' in the armpit, which can be felt. These nodes feel 'firm' while rest of the armpit feels 'soft'

Change in volume or shape of the breast

Larger tumours or tumour in the inner half of the breast tend to stand out and can be easily noticed.

IARC's chart on signs and symptoms of breast cancer

IARC stands for the International Agency for Research in Cancer and is an arm of the WHO (World Health Organization). IARC, on it's website on breast cancer, has provided a very good chart with pictures of signs of breast cancer and is worth seeing. Please click HERE. On this page, on the right hand side, you can see a file titled 'Quick Reference chart for clinical breast examination (pdf file)'. You can download that and read it.

Guidelines for early detection of breast cancer

To read the standard guidelines followed worldwide, Click Here