Ladies, for many of you it’s a set in stone routine. Every month, like clockwork since you were a teenager, you perform a breast self-exam to look for lumps.
But the truth is those exams don’t save lives, according to experts. In fact, gynecologists and cancer specialist no longer recommend them. They haven’t since the early 2000s
And while it doesn’t hurt to do them, medical professionals were so focused on those lumps they dropped the ball. They failed to teach us there are other important signs of breast cancer.
And ignoring those red flags could be a major mistake.
Often overlooked signs of breast cancer
Let’s fix that now by taking a look at six signs of breast cancer which aren’t a lump,
And men, you should keep reading too. Because knowing these breast cancer signs, could help you save the life of someone you love. (And leaving this email open for her to see couldn’t hurt either.)
1. Changes in shape or size:
Many women have normal monthly fluctuations in the size of their breasts. By now, you know what your typical pattern is. But you should never ignore any significant changes in size or shape. Especially if those changes are in one breast but not the other.
Cancer in the milk duct or the milk producing glands can cause one of your breasts to grow larger, or change shape, while the other stays the same. If you notice one breast changing but the other isn’t keeping up, check in with your doctor.
2. Swollen lymph nodes:
Swollen or hard lymph nodes in your armpit are a sign that your body is trying to fight off an illness or infection. But it turns out they’re also one of those commonly overlooked signs of breast cancer too.
Many breast cancers start out in the lymph nodes, not the breasts. If you’re still performing your monthly self-exam, extend it into your armpit, and feel for lumps there too. If not, just be aware if you experience any discomfort in your armpit it could be a swollen lymph node. And if it’s inflamed it means something is going on. So go see your doctor to be safe.
3. Rash or color changes:
Often a bump or rash on the breast is nothing more than a simple irritation or mosquito bite. But if it lasts for days without changing color or starting to heal, it may be a sign of something more serious.
Color and texture changes can be a red flag for inflammatory breast cancer, or IBC. Some women also have pitting on the breast surface that looks kind of like an orange peel.
IBC doesn’t ever create a lump. So while you shouldn’t panic if you spot a rash, you should keep your eye on it.
An unexplained sore anywhere on your breasts, but especially on or around the nipple, should be taken seriously. It can indicate a type of cancer that starts in the nipple, rather than in the breast tissue around it.
This type of cancer is usually found in older women. So if you’re a senior be especially vigilant about checking for sores.
5. Dimpling of the skin:
On babies, dimples are cute. On your breasts, they could signify a problem. It may be a case where the cancer is so deep in the tissue that you can’t feel a lump, but it’s still there.
Tumors that grow deep in the breast can cause inflammation. That inflammation can show up in your breast tissue, ligaments, and skin, pulling everything down towards the tumor.
6. Discharge from the nipple:
First the good news. A discharge from your nipple isn’t a guarantee you have breast cancer. Several other conditions can cause leakage. Noncancerous tumors, certain infections and even just having fibrous breasts for example.
However leaking from the breasts, especially if it’s a bloody discharge, can also be a sign of breast cancer. So call your doctor immediately if you see any leakage or spotting. Let her decide if it’s a problem or not.
Go right ahead and keep performing your monthly exam if you prefer. But keep in mind breasts are naturally lumpy. And finding a lump doesn’t mean you have cancer and can cause you a lot of unnecessary anxiety.
Go ahead and discuss it with your doctor for peace of mind. But make sure to talk about watchful waiting to avoid unnecessary tests and invasive biopsies.
But be sure to keep your eyes open for any of these other six signs of breast cancer. And if you spot any significant changes in your breasts, call your doctor immediately.
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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