Doctors have long known that early detection makes it substantially easier to treat breast cancer patients, but it is vital for women and men to know these symptoms so that they can remain vigilant. While women develop breast cancer about 100 times more often than men, it is still possible for men to have breast cancer and therefore they should also be familiar with the symptoms of the disease. Even though most breast cancer cases occur in women, men are often able to detect lumps or changes in their wife’s (or intimate partner’s) breasts if they know what to look for. Early detection can save the life of a loved one.
One of the most noticeable symptoms of breast cancer is a change in the size or shape of a breast. Women who have breast cancer often notice that the affected breast becomes larger, or swollen, or that it might morph into an unaccustomed shape. Some women may ignore this symptom because the size and shape of a woman’s breasts will change naturally throughout her lifetime. For example, breasts often swell during pregnancy, and they may or may not return to the original shape after nursing. While there are healthy reasons that a breast’s size and shape might change, change can also be a symptom of breast cancer. If you experience a change in breast size or shape, you should seek the advice of a medical professional. Even if it is not breast cancer, there are several diseases that can affect the breasts.
Other easily noticeable symptoms of breast cancer include flaking skin on the nipples, a pitted appearance to the skin, redness, and irritation. Some claim that breasts with cancer have the appearance of an orange because they can have an orange tint and skin can appear lumpy.
Women should be taught to perform monthly breast self-exams, but many forget to do this or were simply never instructed properly. Failing to perform a monthly self-exam can be a dangerous mistake, though, because it is a reliable way to check for lumps in the breasts. There are numerous websites that can instruct you on the proper way to perform a self-exam, including an excellent video located on our home page. Finding a lump does not necessarily mean you have cancer–in fact, it is entirely possible that you have a non-cancerous growth. You and your doctor should decide together whether or not to remove the tumor, but tests must be performed to determine if it is actually cancerous.
Women should perform self-exams monthly, but they should also have mammograms once a year. Mammograms allow health care professionals to examine the breasts for lumps that might not be detectable by touch. This method has been touted as one of the most useful forms of breast cancer prevention because it can detect symptoms that other tests cannot find.