Warning Signs & Early Symptoms of Breast Cancer - Let's Study in Detail
Breast Cancer is a medical condition that can occur in men and women but is far more common in women than men. One experiences a sharp pain in the breast with some tenderness. However, there are no particular early symptoms of breast cancer in females. When the body produces warning breast cancer signs, people often visit a doctor to spot a breast lump. These lumps are the first common and early symptoms of breast cancer in females and may be located anywhere along your chest wall or under your armpit.
Along with lumps, you may also experience bleeding or discharge from your nipple or might feel pain with redness and/or swelling in any area of either one or both of your breasts, followed by a flat or caved-in nipple. However, these symptoms might not be necessarily related to breast cancer or are the reasons for breast cancer.
Early warning signs of breast cancer:
Initially, you may notice a painless lump in your breast, potentially indicating a tumor in the breast as the most common sign of forming breast cancer.
In a major number of cases, women don't have any apparent signs of breast cancer at the time of diagnosis. Rather, these early signs are discovered on an imaging test. Even the small lumpy tumor is distinctly small in the early stages of breast cancer that it is barely noticeable to the naked eye.
Mammograms (low dose X-rays) play an important role in helping detect such underlying tumor in the breast, long before it grows big enough or causes any cancer-like symptoms or in a stage where it is more easily treatable or the breast cancer is in its early stages showing such symptoms.
The size of the tumor in the breast may vary; they may be as small as the tip of a pencil (1 mm) or as big as a lime (50 mm). Mammograms are designed in a manner to help spot small spectrum tumors when they can't be seen or felt by the naked eye or touch.
Mammograms are a reliable way to detect and catch breast cancer during the early stages, but in certain instances, even mammograms fail to catch or detect every case of breast cancer. Therefore, it becomes extremely important to pay close attention to your bodily symptoms because you know your body best.
The early symptoms of breast cancers may vary from person to person. However, there are a few certain early warning signs that breast cancers include that one must not ignore:
- Swelling, redness, or other visible skin changes or differences in either one or both the breasts
- Changed or increased size in the shape of the breast
- Change of appearance of one or both nipples
- Discharge from nipple other than breast milk
- Pain in/on any part of the breast
- Lumps or nodes felt on/or inside the breast
Here are also a few early warning signs that might indicate invasive breast cancer:
- Itchy or irritated breasts
- Change in breast color
- Increasing or changing breast shape or size over a short period of time
- Changes in touch
- Peeling or flaking of the nipple
- Thickening breast lumps
- Redness of the breast skin
However, one must keep in mind that benign conditions may have caused these changes.
Tumors in the breast:
Breast cancers are formed from cells that form a tumor-like lump that can be seen in an x-ray report or felt over touch. Serving as one of the most common early symptoms of breast cancer in females, an individual usually visits a doctor on sighting a lump on their breast. But, it's crucial to understand that not all breast lumps are malignant or cancerous.
A cancerous or malignant tumor may feel soft, rounded, and tender. It can occur anywhere in the breasts in some cases, and these lumps can be painful. As there is no natural cure for breast cancer yet, medical treatments have advanced and helped to remove, shrink or slow the growth and spread of such tumors with therapies.
There are certain factors, when triggered, cause breast cancers. According to doctors, breast cancers develop when breast cells begin to grow abnormally. The DNA in these breast cells then further mutate or change and disable certain specific functions that control the cell growth and division.
Generally, these mutated cells either die or are attacked and killed by the body's immune system. But, some cells manage to escape and keep growing unchecked, thus forming lumps or tumors in the breast.
These growing cells then spread through your breast to your lymph nodes or to other parts of your body.
Cancer most often begins within the cells in the milk-producing ducts (invasive ductal carcinoma) or in the glandular tissue called lobules (invasive lobular carcinoma), or in other cells or tissues within the breast.
Researchers and doctors have also identified that an individual's hormonal changes, lifestyle, and environmental factors may also increase the risk of breast cancer and show or indicate the early symptoms of breast cancer in females. However, it is not clear why some people with no risk factors develop cancer; on the other hand, people with risk factors never do. It's certainly highly likely that breast cancers are caused by a complex interaction of an individual's genetic makeup and the surrounding environment.
Doctors have further estimated that almost about 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are inherited genetically, i.e., they are linked to gene mutations passed through generations of a family.
A number of inherited mutated genes that increase the likelihood of breast cancer have been identified over the years. Among all the mutated genes, the most well-known breast cancer-causing gene is gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2). Both the genes are associated with significantly increasing the risk of both breast and ovarian cancer.
In case your family has a history of breast cancer or other cancers, you should visit or consult a doctor and get the recommended tests done right away, or if you find any of the aforementioned early symptoms of breast cancer.
Other reasons that are directly associated with breast cancers include:
1. Being female: Women tend to develop breast cancer more than men.
2. Increasing age: The risk of developing breast cancer increases as one age
3. A personal history of breast conditions: On having a breast biopsy, if you have found lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or atypical hyperplasia of the breast, it indicates that you have an increased risk of breast cancer.
4. A family history of breast cancer: If anyone from your families such as your mother, sister, or daughter, was diagnosed with breast cancer, i.e., particularly at a young age, your risk of breast cancer increases greatly. However, a majority of people who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.
5. Inherited genes that increase cancer risk: Certain gene mutations can also cause or increase the risk of breast cancer passed from parents to children. Gene mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the most common ones. These genes can greatly increase your risk of breast cancer and other cancers; however, it doesn't make cancer inevitable.
6. Radiation exposure: In case you have received radiation treatments at your chest as a child or young adult, your risk of breast cancer is increased.
7. Obesity: Obesity can also increase the risk of you getting breast cancer.
8. Beginning your period at a younger age than usual: Having your periods before the age of 12 can increase the risk of breast cancer.
9. Beginning menopause at an older age than usual: You are more likely to develop breast cancer. In case you have menopause at an older age.
10. Having your first child at an older age: Bearing and giving birth to children after the age of 30 increases the risk of breast cancer.
11. Having never been pregnant: Women who have never been pregnant or conceived are at a greater risk of developing breast cancer than women who have had one or more pregnancies
12. Postmenopausal hormone therapy: Women who take and rely on hormonal therapy medication that combines and contains both estrogen and progesterone to treat the signs and symptoms of menopause are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. However, such risk decreases when women stop taking these medications.
13. Drinking alcohol: Alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer.
Hence, the causes of breast cancer can't be specifically determined. However, getting yourself and your loved ones checked regularly is one way to avoid serious complications or being diagnosed during the early stages of breast cancer.