Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Common signs and symptoms you should know about

“Breast cancer can affect young women as early as in their 20s too. Also, men can have breast cancer as they do have breast tissue. Breast cancer can occur during pregnancy as well,” said Dr Aruna Muralidhar

Every year, October is observed as Breast Cancer Awareness month with the objective to increase awareness about the disease and its prevention. Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women across the globe and in India. “In order to reduce the mortality and morbidity from breast cancer, early detection is vital. Women in their 20s are advised to regularly examine their breasts after periods. Women in their 30s must also undergo a clinical breast examination every six months to a year. Indian women in their 40s are advised to undergo a clinical breast examination as well as a regular mammogram (an X-ray test) on a regular basis,” said Dr Aruna Muralidhar MD, MRCOG(UK), FRCOG(UK), FICM, Senior Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Fortis Hospital, Richmond Road Bangalore.

The most common and well-known symptom is a lump in the breast. But, most of the breast lumps are not cancerous. A cancerous lump is generally hard, not easily moveable, and usually painless, explained Dr Muralidhar.

Screening can begin at 25 for women with genetic mutations, and screening is often initiated 10 years before the first affected relative in the family with a history of breast cancer. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

Breast self-examination can be a bit confusing. No breast is typical. Many women may feel that their breasts are lumpy. The way the breasts feel can be affected by getting a period, having children, gaining or losing weight and even on medications being taken. However, certain changes must be looked for.

Breast cancer can present with other symptoms too. She enumerated some of the other symptoms of breast cancer.

*Thickening or swelling in a part of the breast– When looking into the mirror, a part of the breast may look slightly swollen or the skin may seem to be thickened. There may be a lump underneath.
*New lump in the underarm (armpit)- There are small lymph nodes in our armpits which drain lymph from our breasts. They are generally not felt unless there is an infection or cancer. Any new lump that is felt in either of the armpits needs to be evaluated.
*Irritation or dimpling of breast skin– The skin over the breast may look dimpled or coarse. Sometimes, in advanced cases, it may appear like the skin of an orange. Also, there may be slight irritation of the skin.
*Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast- The nipple area also needs to be examined. Flaky dry skin over the nipple and the darker area surrounding it (areola) must be looked for.
*Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area- Any pulling in of the nipple or even pain in the nipple and areola could indicate a cancerous lesion underneath.
*Nipple discharge including blood- Any nipple discharge other than milk, which can be clear or slightly blood stained can indicate a problem.
*Any change in the size or the shape of the breast– Changes in the size or even the shape of the breast with puckering or loss of contour should be looked for.
*Pain in any area of the breast– Although pain is rare and is seen in advanced cases, even pain in a certain area must be evaluated.
*Other general symptoms are a sudden loss of weight, loss of appetite, hair loss, bony aches, and pains or difficulty in breathing.

“Breast cancer can affect young women as early as in their 20s too. Also, men can have breast cancer as they do have breast tissue. Breast cancer can occur during pregnancy as well. Any symptom which seems worrying must be brought to the attention of a gynaecologist with expertise in the management of breast disease. Early detection certainly saves lives,” Dr Muralidhar opined.

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source: lifestyle