Fast Five Quiz: Early-Stage Breast Cancer

Maurie Markman, MD

Disclosures

January 14, 2021

Figure 1. Breast cancer, colored MRI of a 32-year-old patient. There are several malignant tumors (blue) in the left breast (at right). This is a centrally necrotizing carcinoma, a particularly aggressive form of cancer. The tumors consist of a central core of dead cells surrounded by an outer layer of malignant cells.

Early-stage breast cancer is often asymptomatic, and pain and discomfort are typically not present. Only 5% of patients with a malignant mass present with breast pain.

When a breast lump is discovered, other signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of breast cancer include:

  • Skin dimpling or skin changes

  • Recent nipple inversion or skin change, or nipple abnormalities

  • Single-duct discharge, particularly if blood-stained

  • Axillary lump

  • Change in breast size or shape

Although skin dimpling or skin changes may occur in early-stage breast cancer, particularly inflammatory breast cancer, it is not diagnostic for breast cancer, and other causes should be ruled out.

Breathing difficulties may be indicative of metastatic breast cancer rather than early-stage disease.

Learn more about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

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