SolveYourProblem Article Series: Breast Cancer
Help Me Understand Breast Cancer



Breast Cancer - The Signs and Symptoms

The importance of understanding the signs and symptoms that may alert us to breast cancer cannot be overstated. By detecting this cancer in its early stage there are more options open to us for treatment and a stronger likelihood of being cured.

The most common indicator that something is not right is that of a lump or a thickening in the breast tissue. Since the breast tissue can normally feel lumpy or a little more tender and thicker at certain times of the month this can make it a bit more difficult in determining if something is unusual.

As well, it is good to keep in mind that, by far, most breast lumps aren't cancerous. Beside the changes that can occur during the menstrual cycles there are also changes that naturally occur with pregnancy. There can be benign issues of cysts or fibroadenomas (basically an encapsulated benign tumor). And there can be bruising and swelling from an injury or infection.

So to be able to detect something unusual it starts with first of all knowing what your breasts are normally like in appearance. It means standing in front of a mirror and taking note of their size and shape and the way they fall against your body. You need to stand with your hands akimbo (on your hips) and then held above your head. Be sure to move to look at how they appear from side views as well.

Every month you will need to do a breast self-exam. It is recommended that you pick a time when the breasts are not swollen or tender due to the hormonal fluctuations of your period. Usually a week following your period is a good time. Doing it at the same time each month will help reinforce what feels normal. For women who are menopausal it is still helpful to pick the same time each month. In both cases it can serve to help us do it regularly.

Naturally if you feel that something is new or seems changed this will be the first sign to take note of. It may be apparent in the way your breast falls or it may only be in feeling it through the touch of your fingers. It should be noted that usually a cancerous lump will not feel painful.

In addition to this there are other associated symptoms such as: the nipple looking indented, a clear or bloody discharge from the nipple, the skin of the breast being pitted and red or even an area of indentation of the skin of the breast as a whole.

If you are not a women in menopause it may be helpful to wait through another cycle to see if the change is permanent but never should you wait if you are concerned or worried that something is not right with your body. Be sure to keep a mental record or write down anything concerning times that might prove helpful for your doctor in his examination.

And bear in mind that eight out of ten times an unusual lump will prove to be benign. It is not easy to face the issue of breast cancer and to keep a close watch on a regular basis, but by doing so we may have the opportunity to save our lives by detecting it before it has a chance to spread.

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