Fast Five Quiz: Breast Cancer Presentation and Diagnosis

Pavani Chalasani, MD, MPH


July 13, 2021

Figure 1. Light micrograph showing breast cancer cells in a case of invasive ductal carcinoma.

Very few patients with breast cancer present with breast pain, although patients with inflammatory breast cancer usually have some degree of breast pain as well as other distinct symptoms. Breast cancer is often first detected as an abnormality on a mammogram before it is felt by either a patient or a healthcare provider during a breast examination. Many, but not all, patients with breast cancer have a lump in the breast. Masses that are hard and painless and that have irregular edges are more likely to be cancerous, but breast cancers can also be tender, soft, or round.

Some common early warning signs of breast cancer include:

  • Skin changes, such as swelling, redness, or other visible differences in one or both breasts

  • An increase in size or change in shape of the breast(s)

  • Changes in the appearance of one or both nipples

  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk

  • General pain in/on any part of the breast

  • Lumps or nodes felt on or inside of the breast

Some early warning signs that are specific to invasive breast cancer are:

  • Irritated or itchy breasts

  • Change in breast color

  • Increase in breast size or shape (over a short period of time)

  • Changes in touch (may feel hard, tender, or warm)

  • Peeling or flaking of the nipple skin

  • A breast lump or thickening

  • Redness or pitting of the breast skin (like the skin of an orange)

Learn more about the presentation of breast cancer.


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