Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Breast Cancer - Signs & Symptoms

The best way to deal with breast cancer, both before being diagnosed and after, is to be completely knowledgeable about it. Educating yourself about its symptoms, signs and causes can help you detect it early and also avoid it. With every one woman in eight being at the risk of getting this cancer, it is the best thing we can do for ourselves.

To understand this type of cancer, it is important that you understand its signs and symptoms so you can detect it at an early stage and prevent any further harm.

Signs & Symptoms

The first subjective sign or first symptom of breast cancer is a lump that feels different from the rest of the breast tissue. As per the Merck Manual, more than almost 80 percent of cancer cases are detected by a women when she feels a lump through a breast self examination. The American Cancer Society states that the first medical sign of breast cancer is detected by the physician when he discovers it through a mammogram.

Another indication of this cancer is the detection of lumps in the lymph nodes located in the armpits, as the first area it starts spreading to is the lymph nodes there.

There are other signs or symptoms as well, like:

• Change in the size of the breast,
• Change of the shape,
• The skin of the breast starts dimpling,
• There is nipple inversion,
• Spontaneous single nipple discharge,
• Pain in the breast (mastodynia) is not a reliable symptom, but can also be indicative of other breast problems.

When the cancer cells spread to the dermal lymphatics, that is, the small lymph vessels present in the skin of the breast, it can resemble skin inflammation and thus is known as Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC).

The symptoms of this kind include pain, warmth, swelling, redness throughout the breast and an orange peel texture to the skin, which is referred to as peau d'orange.

Paget's disease of the Breast

Another complex symptom of this cancer is the Paget's disease of the breast. In this syndrome the skin presents changes as eczematoid skin changes. It shows redness and mild flaking of the skin of the nipple. It is said that as Paget's advances, the symptoms may change to redness, itching, tingling, burning, increased sensitivity and pain. Around half of the women diagnosed with Paget's syndrome have also had a lump in the breast.

Metastatic Breast Cancer

Sometimes the cancer presents itself as metastatic disease, which means the cancer that has spread from its original organ, the breast. The symptoms of this type depend upon the location of the metastasis. Common sites where metastasis occurs is the bone, lung, liver and the brain. Unexplained weight loss can be a sign of an occurrence of cancer, as can fever and chills. Pain in the joints can be manifestations of this cancer. Jaundice and neurological symptoms, too, could point towards this. These symptoms are non-specific; that means they could be the symptoms of any other illness.

Many times the symptoms of a breast disorder do not turn out to represent breast cancer. There are benign breast diseases, like mastitis and fibrodenoma, which can be the causes of the symptoms, though any symptom should be considered seriously at all times by both patients and doctors.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer can be an unsettling experience. Useful resources to deal with this time are books. You could consider Secrets of Cancer Survivors by Elizabeth Gould. For more information, please click here: