Breast cancer in its early stages presents no outward signs or symptoms. There is little warning and no pain leaving the problem hidden. The only way to detect breast cancer in its earliest stage is by finding a lump or an abnormality. The only way to do this is to regularly do self -examinations or by having a yearly mammogram. Self- examinations should take place on a monthly basis and every woman should make this a regular part of her health plan.
Should you find a lump during these self -exams please do not panic, not all lumps are cancerous but you must go immediately to the doctor and have tests. Do not under any circumstance wait. Any change around the breast should be taken seriously no matter how small. Keep an eye open for changes in the skin, nipple discharge or inversion.
The actual breast is not the only place that a lump can appear. Check the area above the collarbone and also under the arm.
Nipple discharge is not uncommon and is in fact rarely a sign of cancer but there will be greater concern should the discharge be from just one breast and is bloody. The same goes for nipple inversion but should this be a sudden occurrence you need to go talk with your health care provider.
Sometimes an infection may be present in the breast tissue that will cause redness and swelling and this again should be treated promptly. This also goes if the redness and swelling is in your armpit on under your shoulder.
If you notice that the skin of the breast is puckered, go and get it checked out. It may be caused by another disease or illness but it may be a sign of cancer being present. It is always best to eliminate the possibility of cancer.
Breast cancer doesn't happen over night and can take months or years to develop but the earliest diagnosis is best so that treatment can begin. Breast cancer caught in the later stages is much more difficult to treat and can spread throughout the body.
A mammogram (an electronic scan of the breast) is capable of detecting breast cancer very early on therefore it is important to have a mammogram once a year especially for women over the age of 40. You may not find this pleasant but at least you will have peace of mind.
If there is concern about any lump discovered your Doctor will perform a biopsy which involves taking a small piece of the lump and sending it for a specialist to examine in the laboratory.
So to recap, check for a lump in the breast, above the collarbone or under the arm, take notice of any discharge from the nipple or a nipple inversion and be aware of any changes to the skin of the surface of the breast.
You owe it to yourself and your family to take charge as soon as possible.