Breast Cancer Symptoms

Early breast cancer does not have any symptoms nor is it painful. Most breast cancer is discovered before the symptoms become present either by the find of an abnormality on a mammography or by feeling a lump in the breast. Some women notice a lump under the arm or above the collar bone which does not go away. There are other symptoms which may become present such as discharge from the breast, inversion of the nipple or changes to the skin which overlies the breast.


Most lumps that are found in the breast are not cancerous. However, they all need to be checked and evaluated by a doctor.


Although rarely a symptom of cancer, discharge from the breast is a common problem. It is more concerning if the discharge is occurring in one breast and/or has a blood in it. All breast discharge should be checked out by a doctor. It is very common for normal nipples to be inverted although if they do this as a new development, there is cause for concern and this should also be discussed with your doctor.


If breast cancer is present, there may also be changes to the skin on the breast such as redness, texture changes or puckering. Skin diseases can also cause these changes so don’t be too alarmed. However you should get these types of changes checked out, as they may also be associated with breast cancer.

Breast cancer can develop over a period of months or years. Once it has been identified, treatment should be given with some urgency due to the fact that it is difficult to treat if the cancer spreads from the breast to other parts of the body. This is known as metastastic spread.

What to Watch For

You should look out for the following and contact your healthcare provider if you:
find a lump in your breast, under your arm or above the collar bone that

    • stays for longer than a week
    • develop discharge from your breast
    • notice a new development in your nipple such as a sudden inversion
    • Notice new skin changes in your breast.

Swelling or redness in your breast may be an indication of an infection in the breast tissue. An infection should also be treated promptly so you should see your healthcare provider immediately. You should also visit your nearest healthcare provider if you notice swelling, redness or severe pain in your breast under your shoulder or under your armpit.

Should an abnormality be found on a mammogram, you should ensure that an appointment is made immediately for further evaluation with your healthcare provider to provide you with the comfort of an all clear.

There are usually several steps involved in the diagnosis of breast cancer such as examination of the breast, ultrasonography or mammography. Finally, you may undergo a biopsy which is the only definitive method to diagnose breast cancer.

Complete examination of the breast includes a visual inspection and palpitation, including the armpits and the areas around the collarbone. Your healthcare provider may also palpate for a lump or feel for a thickening in the skin.