The most common scene in movies, books, and series when it comes to breast cancer detection is the woman finding a lump in her breasts. It is the most common thing women are told to keep an eye on and feel out for during a breast self-exam. But is that the only symptom of breast cancer? According to a 2017 study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, one in six women who discovered their cancer themselves caught it based on a less-obvious breast cancer symptom, like nipple abnormalities and weight loss rather than a lump.
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TC46 connected with Oncologist Dr Uma Dangi of Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi, Navi Mumbai to know more about the less obvious symptoms of breast cancer. Here she talks about benign breast lumps, symptoms to look out for and the need for self-examination.
1. Breast cancer represented 27.7% of all cancers among women in India in 2018
Breast Cancer is the leading cause of cancer in Indian women, surpassing cancer of the cervix. In fact, data suggests that in 2018 alone, 162,468 new Breast Cancer cases were diagnosed, representing 27.7% of new cancers among Indian women and 11.1% of all cancer deaths. In India, diagnosis at an advanced stage, i.e., locally advanced or metastatic tumours, is more common than that in the west due to limited awareness and screening programmes. This leads to lower survival rates and heavier financial and social burdens. If detected early, Breast Cancer is a highly curable disease with appropriate treatment.
2. Lumps are the most typical symptom of breast cancer
A lump is the most typical symptom of Breast Cancer. Breast Cancer starts developing when cells of the breast start growing abnormally and rapidly. These cells tend to aggregate and form masses or tumours, which are felt as lumps. Notably, cancer lumps often start as painless and hence tend to be ignored by many women. Not all breast lumps turn out to be cancerous. Some may be benign as well. The causes for the non-cancerous lumps may be the hormonal fluctuations during menstruation or fluid build-up, plugged milk ducts, injuries and even infections.
3. Symptoms of breast cancer in women other than lumps one should lookout for
Symptoms of Breast Cancer other than lumps to look out for include:
- Discharge from the nipple
- Flaky skin or cracking of the nipple
- Dimpling around the nipple
- Breast swelling
- Visual difference skin changes on the breast
- Inward nipple
- Changes in breast contour
- Sudden increase in breast size over a short period of time
- Changes in touch- the breast may feel stiff, tender or warm
- Vein Patterns such as an increase in the number or size
- One of the other common symptoms to look out for is a lump in the armpit, breast or around the collarbone
4. Every woman should practise these at-home examinations for better breast health
Every woman should self-examine their breasts once a month to stay alert. If you are menstruating, it is better to self-inspect after the menstruation period gets over. To perform at-home examinations do the following:
- Visually inspect your breasts in front of the mirror and look for colour, texture, size, changes. Check under your breasts for ridges and see whether they’re symmetrical
- Use the pads of your three middle fingers to feel for any lump while lying down or standing in the shower without a bra or clothes. While one is lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly, making it easier to detect any change. Raise your arms overhead and palms pressed together, then flex your chest muscles with arms on the hips while examining. Keep changing the pressure level from mild to firm
- Gently squeeze your nipples to see whether there is any discharge from the same
Read Here: 5-point checklist for better breast health
5. Get these persistent, noticeable changes in your breasts checked by a doctor
Consult your doctor when these persistent, noticeable changes in breasts occur:
- Hard lump/knot in the breast area or underarm
- Change in the skin over the breast, which may become hard and red
- Sudden change in the size or shape of the breast
- Bloody or any nipple discharge other than lactation
- Puckering or flaky skin around the nipple and inverted nipples
Click Here: Take this breast cancer quiz to see if are you at an increased risk for breast cancer