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The Seven: Signs and symptoms of breast cancer to look out for

October is breast cancer awareness month and thus it is important to know what to look out for where breast cancer is concerned.

Breast cancer symptoms vary widely from lumps to swelling to skin changes and many breast cancers have no obvious symptoms at all.

In some cases, a lump may be too small for you to feel or to cause any unusual changes you can notice on your own. Often, an abnormal area turns up on a screening mammogram (X-ray of the breast), which leads to further testing.

In other cases, however, the first sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass in the breast that you or your doctor can feel. A lump that is painless, hard, and has uneven edges is more likely to be cancer. But sometimes cancers can be tender, soft, and rounded.

According to an article by the breast cancer organisation, any of the following unusual changes in the breast can be a symptom of breast cancer:

• swelling of all or part of the breast
• skin irritation or dimpling
• breast pain
• nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
• redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
• nipple discharge other than breast milk
• a lump in the underarm area

These changes also can be signs of less serious conditions that are not cancerous, such as an infection or a cyst. Again, it’s important to get any breast changes checked out promptly by a doctor.

Breast self-exam should be part of your monthly health care routine, and you should visit your doctor if you experience breast changes. If you’re over 40 or at a high risk of breast cancer, you should also have an annual mammogram and physical exam by a doctor. The earlier breast cancer is found and diagnosed, the better your chances of beating it.

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The actual process of diagnosis can take weeks and involve many different kinds of tests.  Breast cancer can develop in the ducts that carry milk to the nipple, the lobules that produce milk, or the tissue in between.

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