When checking your breasts there are a number of signs and symptoms to look for. It is very important to be breast aware in order pick up any changes as soon as possible. Being breast aware means knowing the shape and feel of your breast during different times of the month. If at any point you find a change to your breast including the following signs and symptoms, see your GP who can refer you for investigations.
Change in breast size or shape
Normal breast tissue is made of fatty fibrous connective tissue to give the breast its shape and size. It is natural for one breast to be larger than the other, however, unexplained changes to the size and shape of the breast is what to look out for. Changes in shape/size may be due to a lump.
Lump or thickened breast tissue
Lumps or areas of thickened tissue around the breast or under the armpits are the most common symptom that are checked for. Although 90% of tumours will be benign, it is still important to have any new lump or changes to the skin checked by a GP. Some women find their breasts become lumpy during the time of their period, if the lumps go after the end of your menstrual cycle, this is normal. If you find a lump in one breast, check the other. It may be normal if both breast have similar lumps, however, it is best to have the lumps checked by a professional.
Breast pain (mastalgia) will effect two-thirds of women in the UK, mostly between the ages of 30 and 50. There are many causes of breast pain such as hormones from menstruation, ill-fitting bras, pregnancy, cysts or swelling after breast feeding (Mastitis). Breast pain itself isn’t a sign of cancer due to the number of other causes it can be, however if it is unexplained and unrelated to your periods, keep a diary of the pain and show it to your GP.
For further information of breast change visit: http://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/understanding-breast-changes/understanding-breast-changes.pdf
Changes to the nipple
Discharge that comes out without squeezing (spontaneous discharge) is the only type of discharge this is concerning. If discharge is only present when the breasts or nipples are squeezed, it is nothing to worry about and you should stop squeezing the breast. Check your bra and clothing for signs of spontaneous discharge.
If the colour of the discharge is bloody or clear this should be checked by your GP. Milky, green or other coloured discharge may be due to pregnancy, hormones from puberty or menopause, abscesses in the breast or nipple, duct ectasia or infections of the milk ducts.
See your GP if you’re unsure of the cause of your discharge and of the discharge only comes from one nipple or one duct in the nipple, or if you’re a male with nipple discharge.
Consult your GP if your nipples become inverted or have changed in shape and size.
For further information you can visit: http://www.breastlink.com/breast-cancer-101/common-breast-problems/nipple-discharge/.
Rash on the breast or nipple and dimpling of the skin
A rash on the breast may cause redness, pain, itching, inflammation, bumps, dryness or discoloured skin. The rash may be due to an allergic reaction or infection, however an aggressive but rare form of cancer called inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) can cause a pink, red or purple rash to develop on the breast, The texture of the skin of the breast might also appear dimpled like orange peel. These symptoms should be immediately discussed with your GP to rule out IBC as this form of cancer is very fast growing. For further information on this form of cancer you can visit: http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/inflammatory-breast-cancer.