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Breast cancer symptoms

x-ray image of a left-breast in profile

Thanks to screening, breast cancer often is found before a woman has any physical symptoms. Yet a woman should know how her breasts normally look and feel so that she can report any unusual changes to her doctor. Reasons to call your doctor include:

  • A lump in or near your breast or under your arm
  • Thick or firm tissue in or near your breast or under your arm
  • A change in the size or shape of your breast
  • Nipple discharge (fluid that is not breast milk)
  • Nipple changes, such as a nipple that turns inward (inverted) into the breast
  • Changes to your breast skin, areola, or nipple, such as itching, redness, scaling, dimpling, or puckering

Keep in mind that most breast changes are not cancer. For instance, nipple discharge can be caused by birth control pills, some medicines, and infections. Or, a breast lump could be a cyst, which is a fluid-filled lump that is not cancer. Early breast cancer usually does not cause pain. Still, if you notice a change in your breast or pain, call your doctor and schedule a visit. Don't wait until your next checkup.

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Content last updated: November 17, 2010.

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