Breast cancer is the second most common and also the second most lethal cancer in women in the United States. It occurs when cancer cells develop in the breast tissue, most commonly in the milk ducts or glands. The cells grow uncontrollably and, in some cases, they can even spread to other parts of body which are not directly connected to the breast, such as the liver, bones, lungs, and brain. This kind of condition is also known as metastatic, advanced, or secondary breast cancer.
Generally breast cancer shows several symptoms, including:
1. A lump in the breast which can be the size of a pea which persists even after one menstrual cycle. An unusual mass found in the underarm can also be a sign of the disease. Lumps are one of the first and very general symptoms of breast cancer. They generally are painless, but in some cases, sufferers can also feel a prickling sensation. They can be detected by mammography even before they can be felt or seen.
2. Changes in the breast size, temperature, contour, and texture. The affected breast can either swell up or shrink depending on the type of the cancer. It can also show other signs such as orange peel-like skin surface (also known as peu d'orange ), flattening or indentation, a marble-like area under the skin, and higher temperature at the affected breast.
3. Pain and the feeling of tenderness of the breast.
4. The swelling of the lymph nodes in the underarm.
5. Changes that can be seen or felt in the affected nipple, such as nipple retraction, burning sensation, itchiness, ulceration, or the scaling of the nipple (which is also a common symptom of Paget's disease). Sometimes the nipple also produces bloody or clear discharge.
All the symptoms and signs can be seen with naked eyes and felt with manual examination. Neverheless, breast self-exams are not recommended by some medication centers. Consult your doctor about the limitations and benefits of the self-examination before doing it. There are other, more accurate ways to examine the early symptoms of breast cancer, including clinical examination, mammogram, ultrasound scanning, and needle test (FNAC). All of these tests can be performed only by healthcare professionals. You are advised to have the examination (s) regularly, at least once in a year. The best time to get your breast examined is shortly after the end of your menstrual cycle since your breast will be in the most normal condition (not swollen or tender), making any abnormal changes easier to detect.