Most women with breast cancer do not have any symptoms. The cancer is found only when a lump is detected by the patient or her doctor, or even better, by mammography. This is why it’s so important to have regular breast cancer screening with mammography, which can detect breast cancers when still too small to be felt by the woman or her doctor.
Regular breast cancer screening with mammography helps detect breast cancers at far earlier stages long before any symptoms appear. While mammography is critical and detects the large majority of breast cancers, it is not perfect. Some women do find a lump or have symptoms before a cancer is seen on mammography.
Most often, the symptoms below do not turn out to be cancer but see your physician for a clinical exam and appropriate imaging if your experience any of these—even if you’ve recently had a mammogram:
- new lump or mass in the breast, or an existing one that has grown, even if a recent mammogram was normal
- lump or thickening in the breast or underarm
- change in size or shape of the breast
- a dimple, or puckering of an area of skin on the breast
- nipple that has recently turned inward (some women have inverted nipples all their lives, and that’s normal)
- Fluid, other than milk, from the nipple that occurs spontaneously (without squeezing the nipple). Discharge that appears black or has blood is more worrisome. Discharge that’s green or milky is less likely to be cancer.
- Scaly, red, swollen skin anywhere on the breast