“Cancer affects all of us, whether you’re a daughter, mother, sister, friend, coworker, doctor, or patient.” – Jennifer Aniston
Each year in India, almost 1.44 lakh women are diagnosed with breast cancer. This number is increasing day by day due to a lack of awareness and the women being shy of talking about any change they see in their breasts. According to Cytecare Cancer Hospital, Breast cancer is the most common cancer in India and has overtaken cervical cancer. What’s more, is that there is no escaping from this disease since breast cancer accounts for almost 25% to 32% of female cancers in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Ahemdabad, Kolkotta, Bhopal. The numbers are indeed constantly increasing.
Breast cancer is often associated with a lump in the breast. But is a lump the only indication of breast cancer? Does breast cancer always show up as a lump? What if a lump is not there and the tests are still positive for breast cancer! According to doctors, breast cancer development starts 3-5 years before the symptoms start showing. Thus it is of utmost importance that a monthly self-examination is done. And yes, not necessary that breast cancer shows as a lump!
Here are some prominent symptoms of breast cancer other than a lump, which every woman should be aware of:
Changes in the skin: A slight change in the skin texture can be due to the inflammation caused in the cells of the skin. Changes may include thickening of any part of the breast skin, or, dry, scaly and patchy skin around and near the areola. Many times changes in the skin texture are not associated with breast cancer and may be due to eczema, dermatitis or some other skin condition.
Nipple discharge: Well, unless you are breastfeeding it is not normal to observe discharge from the nipples. The discharge can be milky, yellow, clear, red with blood or even yellow and green in colour. Other possible reasons for discharge may be an infection of the breast, medical conditions, side effects of some medication or birth control pills. Though nipple discharge is considered to be non-cancerous, it is still a reason to get worried and time to get yourself checked.
Change in nipple: With breast cancer, there can be changes in the cells of the nipples. The significant changes could be a change in size or the inverting and reversing inward of the nipples. Pregnancy and ovulation are other conditions where there are changes in the nipples.
Pain in the breast and nipples: Though breast cancer is painless, there are times when changes in the skin cells may lead to pain, discomfort and tenderness in the breasts and the surrounding areas. Some women may also experience a burning sensation.
Dimpling of the breast: This is an indication of an aggressive form of breast cancer. When cancer cells form a buildup of the lymph fluids in the breast, it leads to dimpling, pitting or swelling of the skin. This change in the skin due to dimpling is addressed as “peau d’orange” by the doctors. This is French for “skin of an orange”.
Swelling in the breast and surrounding areas: There may be swelling in a part of the breast or the whole breast. Though a lump may be missing after the swelling, the breast may feel different in shape and size. The affected skin also becomes tight because of the swelling. Some women may have slight variations in their breast size, however, the swelling may cause a change that is different from normal.
Change in the lymph nodes: Lymph nodes are a collection of small and rounded collections which form the part of the immune system. They filter the vascular fluid and contain the fighting cells (white blood cells), which fight against disease and infection like bacterial, viral or cancer. If the cancer cells spread from the breast, the first place it goes to is the lymph node area of the affected breast. Swollen lymph nodes represent themselves as lumps which are tender. Lymph tissue may change due to breast infections or due to any illness which is not related to the breast.
Redness of the skin: The skin cells may change and give an appearance of being bruised. This change could be due to breast cancer. If the person has not had an injury or a trauma, and cannot recollect the reason behind the colour change, it is a good idea to seek a doctor’s advice.
Here is a quick glance at the symptoms. If you find something don’t hesitate to get in touch with a doctor:
Do you have a personal story about breast cancer to share? Let me know I would be happy to share your story. #BreastCancer
Also Read: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
A Guide to Self-Assessment of Breast Cancer
Myths and Facts Regarding Breast Cancer