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6 Symptoms of Breast Cancer That Aren’t a Lump

October 10, 2019


6 Symptoms of Breast Cancer That Aren’t
a Lump Lumps get most of the attention when you think
about the symptoms of breast cancer. You’ve probably heard that you should check
your breasts regularly and be on the lookout for new or unusual bumps you can’t remember
being there before. If you do find one, don’t panic—some women’s
breasts happen to be lumpy without it being a sign of cancer. But if it’s a new lump, feels different from
other lumps, or you just want some reassurance, it’s a good idea to get it looked at by
a doctor. But there are other breast cancer signs you
should know, too. “It’s not uncommon for breast cancer to
present itself as something other than a lump,” Jack Jacoub, M.D., a medical oncologist and
medical director of MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain
Valley, Calif., tells SELF, estimating that anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of breast cancers
he’s seen don’t involve one. While the most common symptom of breast cancer
is still a new bump or mass, according to the American Cancer Society, here are a few
others that should be on your radar, too. 1. Skin dimpling. Tumors can be deep in your breast and cause
inflammation around them that tethers to the ligaments and skin, Dennis Holmes, M.D., a
breast cancer surgeon and researcher and interim director of the Margie Petersen Breast Center
at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica,
Calif., tells SELF. When this happens, part of your skin can be
pulled in, creating a dimpled effect. This tends to be more obvious when your arms
are raised, Dr. Holmes says, so make sure you also elevate your arms when you’re inspecting
your breasts and bring this change up with your doctor. 2. Nipple retraction. Most women’s nipples stick out, but it’s
possible to have inverted nipples, where your nipple is pulled into the breast. That’s no biggie from a medical standpoint. What is concerning, though, is if your nipple
used to stick out and starts to get pulled inward. Nipple retraction can be caused by a tumor
that’s located in the center of your breast, says Dr. Holmes. “It involves the milk ducts and causes them
to shorten, pulling in the nipple, ” he explains. Like dimpling, this is more obvious when your
arms are raised and is more than enough reason to check in with your doctor. 3. Nipple discharge. It’s important to take a few things into
account with this one, says Dr. Jacoub. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s
normal to have some nipple discharge. But if you’re not and you have bloody or
clear discharge from your nipples, even when you’re not squeezing them, it’s important
to get it checked out, John Kiluk, M.D., F.A.C.S., a breast cancer surgeon at Moffitt Cancer
Center, tells SELF. Keep in mind, though, that nipple discharge
isn’t automatically a sign that you have cancer. Noncancerous tumors in the breast, called
papillomas, can cause a bloody discharge, according to the Mayo Clinic, and birth control,
breast infections, and having fibrocystic (i.e., lumpy) breasts can also cause discharge. In any case, a medical professional can help
you determine the cause and figure out the best course of treatment if necessary. 4. Breast asymmetry. It’s pretty likely that your boobs aren’t
a perfectly-matched set, but if you start to see that one is suddenly becoming bigger
than the other or its shape is changing somehow, it’s time to call your doctor. “The most important thing is noticing a
change,” Dr. Kiluk says. A ductal or lobular breast cancer can cause
asymmetry in your breasts, although weight gain and loss can as well. Bottom line: You won’t know what’s going
on until you get it checked out. 5. Redness or a rash. Your boobs are regularly subjected to things
that can irritate them, like your bra, lotions, and soaps. But if you notice a redness or freckle-like
rash on your breast that feels warm to the touch and isn’t going away, you should get
it checked out. Again, it could just be the soap you found
in your partner’s shower or the new detergent you switched to. However, in rare cases, it could be a sign
of inflammatory breast cancer, a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer, Dr. Holmes
says. Worth noting: People with nipple piercings
can develop the skin infection cellulitis, which has similar symptoms, Dr. Jacoubs says. Cellulitis requires a doctor’s care, too,
so if you’re dealing with strange nipple symptoms, you might as well make an appointment. 6. Breast or nipple pain. This is an unusual symptom of breast cancer,
but it can happen, especially as a sign of inflammatory breast cancer. “It could be an infection, but you might
need a mammogram or ultrasound to be sure,” Dr. Jacoub says. If you get an ultrasound or mammogram and
it’s inconclusive or negative for breast cancer but doctors can’t find another cause
for your symptoms that makes sense, don’t let it go. “Don’t lose sight of it and keep pushing
for answers,” Dr. Jacoubs says. If you find something off with your boobs,
the odds are pretty high that it’s something that’s completely unrelated to cancer. “It’s important to put everything into
context,” Dr. Jacoub says. Still, it’s a good idea to get new and unusual
breast symptoms checked out, just in case.

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