12 Signs You Should Get Your Breasts Checked ASAP

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12 Signs You Should Get Your Breasts Checked ASAP featured image
Drazen Zigic / Getty Images

Everyone knows the importance of checking your breasts for signs of cancer. However, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you could miss an important sign that you need an examination. We talked to experts to get a deeper understanding of what signs should send you to the doctor ASAP.

“Though most breast changes detected during a self-exam for breast awareness have benign causes, some changes may signal something serious, such as breast cancer,” notes Tucson, AZ, plastic surgeon Raman C. Mahabir, MD. “The way your breasts look and feel can be affected by getting your period, having children, losing or gaining weight, taking certain medications and aging.” So while these signs aren’t something to panic about, they are something to get checked out by a professional immediately.

“The incidence of breast cancer is 1 in 8 women. Many women have a false sense of security if breast cancer does not run in their families, but many of the women that I see for breast cancer reconstruction do not have a family history,” says Pittsburgh, PA plastic surgeon Jeffrey Antimarino, MD, so it’s better to play it safe and get checked by an expert. He urges monthly breast self-examinations, and when you notice any of the signs below, book an appointment ASAP.

  • Raman Mahabir, MD is a plastic surgeon based in Tuscon, AZ
  • Jeffrey Antimarino, MD is a plastic surgeon based in Pittsburgh, PA
  • Dr. Deborah Longwill is a dermatologist based in Miami
  • Nyama Sillah, MD is a plastic surgeon based in Milwaukee, WI
  • Dr. Peggy Roberts is a women’s health nurse practitioner based in New York

Asymmetry in the breasts

Examining the breast skin, areolas and nipples is just as important as checking the underlying breast tissue since all of these structures can be involved if breast cancer is present, says Dr. Antimarino. New york women’s health nurse practitioner Dr. Peggy Roberts urges people to get their breasts checked if they notice any asymmetry in them that’s new or unusual.

Larger pores or thickening skin

“Any thickening of the skin or the appearance of larger pores in an area can be a sign of edema or fluid trapped in the skin,” says Dr. Antimarino, “which may be associated with cancer.”

Redness, warmth or swelling

Redness, warmth and swelling are often signs that something is up in your body. Natrelle partner and Milwaukee, WI plastic surgeon Nyama Sillah, MD says that new swelling could be a result of a tumor.

Thickening or prominent fullness in breasts

Miami, FL dermatologist Dr. Deborah Longwill notes that a shift in the size or appearance of breasts is a sign to see a doctor. More specifically, Dr. Mahabir adds that any thickening or prominent fullness that’s different from the surrounding tissue may be of concern.

A change in your nipple

A change in one of your nipples is one of the easier indications to identify. Dr. Longwill says a sudden nipple inversion is something to take stock of. “If your breast develops an indentation or nipple retraction, you should have this investigated,” says Dr. Antimarino. Recent alteration in a nipple “to become pushed in (inverted) instead of sticking out” warrants a visit to the doctor, says Dr. Mahabir. “Any change in coloration, texture changes, tingling or itching of the nipple or areola, should also be examined as it may be associated with a rare form of breast cancer,” warns Dr. Antimarino.

Breast pain

Pain is rarely a good sign on any part of your body, so you’ll definitely want to grab an appointment if your breasts are uncomfortable. Dr. Roberts suggests getting any unusual breast pain checked out. It’s especially important to watch for “sudden pain that persists over time,” says Dr. Longwill.

A new lump

One of the most common symptoms of breast cancer that people know to look for is lumps. Dr. Sillah says “a new breast mass or lump that was not previously there” could be indicative of breast cancer. It could also be a sign of something else, so it’s essential to get an expert opinion.

Dr. Mahabir adds that your breasts aren’t the only places to check for lumps. A hard lump or knot near the underarm could also be related to breast cancer, he says. Lumps resembling the hardness of a knee or elbow are of concern, according to Dr. Roberts. To be safe, “any new mass, nodule or lump that is present for more than a month should be further investigated by your PCP or OB/GYN,” says Dr. Antimarino.

Itching, scales, sores or rashes

If you notice itching, scales, sores, rashes or crusty lesions, experts say you must get your breasts checked. Dr. Longwill notes that lesions that are new or growing are especially concerning.

Skin dimpling

Skin dimpling or retractions can be a result of an underlying tumor, warns Dr. Sillah. Dr. Mahabir notes that puckers, bulges and ridges should also set off an alarm in your head.

Non-healing wound

Dr. Longwill notes that if you have a wound that doesn’t seem to be healing or is worsening, you should make an appointment with your doctor.

Nipple discharge

Blood is often a red flag if it comes without an obvious injury. “New nipple discharge, such as bloody discharge, can also be related to a tumor,” says Dr. Sillah. “Any nipple discharge that persists for several weeks should also be examined,” says Dr. Antimarino.

A changing mole

Changing, new or misshapen moles on any part of our skin are something your doctor should look at. Dr. Longwill says if you have “a mole that has asymmetrical borders or color changes” on your breasts, it should be examined.

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