Skip to main content

Know the Signs

Ask a woman to name a sign or symptom of breast cancer, and chances are she’d say a lump in the breast.

She’d be right, of course. A new lump or mass is the most common symptom of breast cancer. But it’s not the only one.

“There are several breast cancer signs, and some are seen more than felt,” said Michael Wang, M.D., a board certified medical oncologist Lake Regional Cancer Center. “Women need to know all of the signs because finding breast cancer early improves a woman’s chance for surviving.”

Stay Alert

Being familiar with how your breasts look and feel is a key component of breast health. If you notice any of the following signs or symptoms in a breast, you should see a doctor right away.

  • A lump in the breast or armpit. Cancerous breast lumps tend to be hard, painless and irregular (rather than rounded) around the edges.
  • Thickening or swelling of all or part of a breast — or sometimes in the armpit or collarbone area — even if you can’t feel a lump.
  • Irritated or dimpled breast skin.
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area of the breast.
  • A nipple that points inward.
  • An indented spot on the breast.
  • Breast or nipple pain.
  • Nipple discharge, which may be bloody or clear.
  • Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.

Any of these signs and symptoms, including lumps, can be caused by things other than cancer. But only your health care provider can tell for sure.

What Happens Next?

If you have a lump or breast change, your doctor will examine your breasts. He or she may also order tests to take a closer look. These may include a mammogram, a breast ultrasound or a biopsy, which checks a sample of breast tissue for cancer.

It’s important to remember that breast changes are very common, and most are not cancer.

“If a woman ever has a concern, her doctor can help her get the right tests and treatments,” Dr. Wang said. “Women should always tell their doctors about changes they see or feel and follow through with their doctor’s orders.”

A Local Breast Cancer Survivor Shares Her Story

Roseann Dzurko found out she had breast cancer following a routine mammogram. "You have to have a positive outlook," she said. "At first it's scary, but then you meet your doctor and your nurses, and they encourage you." Read Dzurko's story here. Dr. Wang, Roseann Dzurko and Angela Ullrich, R.N.