(HealthyResearch.com) – According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women, second only to skin cancers. It’s also the second leading cause of death in women, with lung cancer coming in first. About 1 in 8 women will develop some form of the disease in their lifetime, and while it’s much rarer in men, roughly 1 in 100 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in males.
BreastCancer.org advises monthly self-exams to check for lumps, the most common sign of a problem. But there are a handful of other symptoms that don’t occur quite as often. Make sure to watch out for these seven potential red flags.
1. Breast Puckering
Changes inside the breasts can sometimes create subtle alterations to their outer appearance, making the skin look abnormally dimpled or puckered. Women’s Care Florida explains that breast puckering may be more noticeable when the arms are raised over the head. A careful examination in the mirror can usually detect this sign.
2. Changes to the Nipple
Nipples pointing inward, flattening or facing the wrong way can also indicate a problem. Changes to the skin on the areola and nipple can be signs of a rare type of cancer called Paget’s disease of the nipple. Sufferers might notice scaly changes or a thickening of the skin. Some people with this condition also experience discomfort and bloody or yellow discharge.
Changes beneath the nipple should be especially concerning in men because the types of breast cancers men usually get tend to start in that region. Men can also get Paget’s disease of the nipple, but according to the American Cancer Society, they’re more likely to develop infiltrating ductal carcinoma or ductal carcinoma in situ.
3. Nipple Discharge
Seen in fewer than 5% of all breast cancers, according to Westmead Breast Cancer Institute, nipple discharge is usually not a reason to panic. Many healthy women see occasional milky, yellow or greenish discharge — but they may have a problem if the liquid is red, brown or clear. If there’s any doubt, see a doctor to get it checked out.
4. Swollen Lymph Nodes
Some people might not have any idea they have breast cancer until it’s spread to one or more lymph nodes, warns Cancer Treatment Centers of America. In this case, there may be a palpable lump under the arm or around the collarbone. Some people find a swollen lymph node before any other symptoms show.
5. Breast Swelling or Pain
Inflammatory breast cancer can cause breast enlargement without the presence of traditional lumps. Cancer Treatment Centers of America explains that this form of the disease may cause swelling, redness, aching and itchiness. One breast may look larger than the other, and it might also feel heavier. Some doctors may try ruling out infection with antibiotics, which are ineffective against breast cancer.
6. Changes to Breast Skin Consistency
Inflammatory breast cancer can also change the appearance and texture of breast skin. Experts often describe the condition as being visibly similar to an orange peel. Other changes, such as those associated with Paget’s disease of the nipple, might resemble eczema or a skin infection. Any changes to the skin that don’t resolve on their own within a couple of weeks should be addressed by a doctor.
7. Post-Menopausal Breast Pain
Breast pain can have numerous causes, which are usually benign, but when that pain comes after menopause, it could be reason for concern. According to Harvard Health, infections and inflammatory conditions are usually to blame, but doctors do connect a small number of cancer cases directly to breast pain. Because post-menopausal women don’t have the monthly hormone fluctuations that cause typical breast pain, they should be especially cautious when they experience this symptom.
Breast cancer can present in some surprising ways, so it’s important to know all the possible symptoms — even the less common ones. Keep in mind that any unexpected change should merit a trip to the doctor. Most issues are likely to be nothing, but it’s never a wasted trip if it can bring peace of mind and rule out a serious health issue.
~Here’s to Your Health & Safety!
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