Finding a lump is the most recognizable breast cancer symptom. But there are additional signs to watch for to help detect cancer during its earliest stages.
One of the simplest ways to detect breast cancer is to conduct a monthly breast self-exam. There are three main methods:
- In the shower – Move the pads of your fingers in a circular pattern from the outside in. Make sure you check both breasts as well as the area around your armpits.
- In front of a mirror – Start with examining yourself in the mirror, first with your arms down, then with them lifted. You should also stand with your hands on your hips, while flexing your chest muscles.
- Lying down – Place a pillow under your right shoulder and put your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast in a circular motion from outside, in. Make sure you cover the entire breast and armpit area. You should also gently squeeze your nipple to check for lumps or discharge. Then repeat the steps on your other breast.
While conducting a breast self-exam, look for these symptoms:
- A new lump or mass
- Swelling of all or part of your breast
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple retraction
- Redness, scaliness or thickening skin
- Nipple discharge
More advanced breast cancer may have additional symptoms including ulceration, bone pain, jaundice, nausea and weight loss.
If you find a lump or any other symptoms while conducting a self-exam, contact your primary care physician or gynecologist. He or she will guide you through next steps.
Edward-Elmhurst Health offers an online tool called BreastAware to help assess and identify your risk for breast cancer. Understanding your risk can help determine how often you should be screened and other preventive steps you can take. We want women to get the knowledge they need so they feel confident about their health.