Breast Cancer (Facts, Stages) (cont.)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

In this Article

What are breast cancer symptoms and signs?

The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass in the breast. In addition, the following are possible signs of breast cancer:

  • Thickening or lump in the breast that feels different from the surrounding area
  • Inverting of the nipple (as a change from previous appearance)
  • Nipple discharge or redness (especially any bloody discharge)
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Swelling of part of the breast or dimpling
  • Changes in the skin of the breast

One should discuss these or any other concerning findings with a health-care professional.

How do physicians diagnose breast cancer?

Although breast cancer can be diagnosed by the above signs and symptoms, the use of screening mammography has made it possible to detect many of the cancers early before they cause any symptoms.

The American Cancer Society has the following recommendations for breast cancer screenings:

Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year and should continue to do so as long as they are in good health.

Mammograms are a very good screening tool for breast cancer. As in any test, mammograms have limitations and will miss some cancers. An individual's family history and mammogram and breast exam results should be discussed with a health-care provider.

Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of regular health exams by a health-care professional about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 years of age and over.

Clinical breast exams are an important tool to detect changes in the breast and also trigger a discussion with a health-care provider about early cancer detection and risk factors.

Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s. Women should report any breast changes to their health-care professional.

If a woman wishes to do BSE, the technique should be reviewed with her health-care provider. The goal is to feel comfortable with the way the woman's breast feels and looks and therefore detect changes.

Women at high risk (greater than 20% lifetime risk) should get an MRI and a mammogram every year. Women at moderate risk (15%-20%) should talk to their doctor about the benefits and limitations of adding MRI screening to their yearly mammogram.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/5/2015

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Breast Cancer - Symptoms Question: What symptoms did you experience when you developed breast cancer?
Breast Cancer - Stages Question: What stage was your breast cancer when you were diagnosed?
Breast Cancer - Type Question: What type of breast cancer do you have?
Breast Cancer - Treatment Question: What kind of treatment did you have for breast cancer?
Breast Cancer - Survival Rate Question: What is the prognosis for your breast cancer?
Breast Cancer - Diagnosis Question: How was your breast cancer detected?