Fast Five Quiz: Early-Stage Breast Cancer

Maurie Markman, MD; Pavani Chalasani, MD, MPH


June 07, 2022

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.

Other signs and symptoms suggestive of breast cancer include:

  • Breast lump

  • 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

Skin dimpling may occur in breast cancer, particularly inflammatory breast cancer; most of the diagnoses of inflammatory breast cancer are made at a more advanced stage.

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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