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.
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.
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.
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. Any recent alteration in a nipple “to become pushed in (inverted) instead of sticking out” warrants a visit to the doctor, says Dr. Mahabir.
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. 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.