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Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

The most common symptom of Breast Cancer is a new lump or mass felt on physical examination. Certain features of the lump increase the level of suspicion. A painless, hard mass with irregular edges is more likely to be cancerous. However, Breast Cancers can be round or painful. As such, physical examination has limitations. Other possible symptoms of Breast Cancer include:

  • Dimpling of the skin
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • Breast swelling
  • Localized breast or nipple pain
  • Bloody or clear nipple discharge

A cancerous breast lump on physical examination may be misinterpreted by a physician as a benign (noncancerous) condition, commonly fibrocystic change, resulting in failure to perform diagnostic imaging or biopsy. More than 50 percent of Women will experience benign fibrocystic changes that can account for breast lumpiness or pain. Lumps on physical examination may be attributed to these hormonal changes particularly in young Women without doing the full work-up to exclude cancer. Since younger Women have a higher incidence of more aggressive Breast Cancer, this may result in poor patient outcomes including Death.