Nine out of ten women know a lump can be a significant sign of breast cancer, but less than half know many other warning signs.
According to a new survey of 1,000 adults, there is a problematic gap in knowledge of other symptoms. While 93 percent of people knew to look for lumps, only 31 percent of individuals were aware that a retracted, inverted, or downward-pointing nipple was another symptom.
A similar proportion of people, 39%, recognized breast puckering as a warning sign for cancer, according to Ohio State University research.
Fewer than half of the respondents knew about pitting or thickening of the skin or the loss of feeling in the breasts.
Most breast cancer cases don’t present with a lump that is detectable to touch, and if they do, it often indicates advanced-stage or fast-growing cancer that is less treatable, according to experts.
“Screening mammography is our number one defense in detecting and addressing breast cancers at their earliest, most treatable stages,” said lead researcher, Professor Ashely Pariser.
“It is also very important for people to be familiar with the look and feel of their own breasts’ tissue so that subtle changes can be evaluated quickly to give us the best chance at early detection. We want people to feel empowered about their bodies and know what is normal for them,” she continued.
“Many breast changes are the result of aging and childbirth; however, breast cancer can present in a number of ways. It is important that people feel safe to address these concerns in a timely way with their doctor. We have made strides in detecting breast cancers in far earlier, more treatable stages,” said Pariser.
The survey included both men and women. Around 300,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed each year in women in the U.S.
What should you check for, and how should you check?
Checking your breasts could help detect early signs of breast cancer. This means that you will have a better chance of defeating the disease.
Cancer organizations recommend that breast self-checks should be part of your monthly routine so that any unusual changes are noticed. However, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by Breast Cancer Now, 39 percent of women don’t do monthly checks.
Over half of women who don’t check their breasts forget to, while 16 percent don’t know how to study.
You can check when lying in bed, in the mirror before you get dressed, or in the shower. Because breast tissue isn’t just found in your breasts, it is also essential that women and men check the tissue all the way up to their collarbone and under their armpits.
There isn’t a wrong or right way to check your breasts as long as you know how your breasts usually feel and look. However, one of the most popular methods includes using the pads of your fingers.
Breasts should be felt and rubbed from top to bottom. Feel in a circular motion and semi-circles around your breast tissue to feel for abnormalities. If you notice any changes, make an appointment with your physician to check it.
Women over 40 should ask for recommendations on when they should have their first mammogram based on risk and family history. Women between 50 and 70 should have routine breast cancer screenings.
What breast changes should you look for?
•Changes to the skin
A common sign of breast cancer is a change in the skin. This can usually be noticed in the mirror, including dimpling and skin puckering. Dimpling skin is often compared to orange peel and is associated with inflammatory breast cancer, an aggressive, rare form of cancer.
A change of color is also a warning sign that needs to be checked out, according to Breast Cancer Now. If your breast looks inflamed or red, it could be a sign of cancer.
Pain is only a rare sign of breast cancer, but if you feel discomfort or pain in one breast that doesn’t go away, contact your doctor.
•Swelling or a lump
Use your fingers to feel for swellings or lumps in the breast, chest, and upper armpit. An area of thickened breast tissue or a lump that doesn’t move easily is one of the first noticeable symptoms of breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, it is the most common symptom. Lumps are often painless and hard.
But experts say when feeling for unusual bumps and lumps, it is essential to know what is normal for you.
Experts advise women to get accustomed to how their breasts feel at different times during the month. This is because some women have lumpy and tender breasts around their armpits during menstruation.
The feel of your breasts can also change following menopause, as normal breasts often don’t feel as lumpy and are less firm. Along with checking for lumps, visible changes to the size and shape of the breast are also important.
Change in the nipple
It is crucial to not only check breast tissue for abnormalities, but also your nipples. Look for crusting around the nipple or rashes. This could look like eczema, scaly, red, or itchy skin, or crusting of the skin.
You should also check the nipple’s position. If it starts to point differently than usual or is pulled in, it could be a sign of breast cancer.
Another warning sign is any discharge from either nipple. Discharge is more common in early breast cancer that begins in the milk ducts. Cancer Research also says the discharge can also be blood-stained.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer comes from a cancerous cell that develops in the breast’s lobule or lining of a duct.
When breast cancer has spread to surrounding tissue, it is called “invasive.” Some people are diagnosed with “carcinoma in situ,” where cancerous cells have grown beyond the lobule or duct. Most cases develop in people over 50; however, younger women are sometimes affected. Although it is rare, breast cancer can develop in men.
Staging cancer indicates how large the cancer is and if it has spread. Stage 1 is the earliest stage, while stage 4 means the cancer has spread to another body part.
Cancerous cells are graded from low, which means slow growth, to high, which means fast growing. Cancers considered high-grade are more likely to come back after they have first been treated.
What causes breast cancer?
A cancerous tumor originates from one abnormal cell. The exact reason a cell becomes cancerous remains unclear. It is thought that something alters or damages the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply rapidly.
Breast cancer can develop for no apparent reason, but some risk factors can increase the chance, including genetics.
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
•Initial assessment: A physician examines the armpits and breasts. They may also perform a mammogram, a special x-ray of the breast tissue, which can point out the possibility of tumors.
•Biopsy: A biopsy removes a small tissue sample from a body part. The sample is then examined under a microscope for abnormal cells. Samples can rule out or confirm cancer.
If it is confirmed that you have breast cancer, further tests can be needed to assess if it has spread — for example, an ultrasound scan of the liver, chest X-ray, or blood tests.
How can breast cancer be treated?
Options for treatment that may be considered include chemotherapy, hormone treatment, surgery, or radiotherapy. Often, a combination of two or more treatments is used.
How successful is the treatment?
The outlook for recovery is best in people diagnosed with cancer, which is still small and hasn’t spread. Surgical removal of a tumor in an early stage can give a good chance of cure.
Routing mammograms recommended for women ages 50 to 70 means more breast cancers are being diagnosed and treated at earlier stages.