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Symptoms of breast cancer: know the 9 most common

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This malignant tumor affects both the breasts and adjacent regions, such as the armpits.

Breast cancer, despite being one of the most frequent among Brazilian women, with more than 60,000 new cases per year – according to the National Cancer Institute (INCA) -, is quite individual. That’s because the symptoms of breast cancer vary from case to case, and may not even manifest in the early stages.

But, in general, there are some characteristic symptoms of the disease, which can affect all people – cis or trans. Check out:



  1. Pain in the breast or nipple;

  2. Wrinkled breast skin;

  3. Breast skin with redness and irritation;

  4. Swelling in all or part of a breast;

  5. Wounds in the breast;

  6. Hardened lump in the breast;

  7. Nodule in the armpit;

  8. inverted nipple;

  9. Nipple with bloody or serous discharge.

1. Pain in the breast or nipple

This symptom causes a lot of doubt. After all, does breast cancer cause pain or not? The truth is that, despite being considered a characteristic symptom of the disease, according to the Brazilian Society of Mastologyin 90% of cases the disease is silent, that is, does not cause pain. In general, breast or nipple pain appears in more advanced conditions. Therefore, it is essential to consult a doctor whenever you experience breast pain.

2. Wrinkled breast skin

Inflammation caused by the tumor is one of the main causes for this breast cancer symptom. In this way, a retraction of the region may occur, leaving the breast skin with orange peel appearancewith some undulations.

3. Breast skin with redness and irritation

Breast cancer can cause inflammation and even infection (such as mastitis) in the breast tissues. With this, there are chances of the skin of the breast to present redness and irritation. However, it is worth mentioning that this symptom can also appear in benign conditions. Therefore, to be considered a warning sign for breast cancer, it must be is accompanied by other symptoms, such as lumps and/or pain.

4. Swelling in all or part of a breast

The inflammatory process is also responsible for this symptom of breast cancer, as it can cause swelling in the entire breast or just in the part affected by the tumor. There may also be some change in breast sizeeither increasing due to swelling or decreasing due to retraction.



Read more: See how breast cancer affects men

5. Wounds in the breast

This symptom usually appears with the evolution of the tumor. According to one article of Journal of the Advanced Practitioner in Oncology (JADPRO)about 2% to 5% of advanced breast cancer cases develop breast sores. The lesion arises when malignant cells infiltrate the skin and cause rupture, ulceration and/or infection in the region.

6. Hardened lump in the breast

A tumor nodule has some particularities: it is hardened, fixed, with progressive growth and, in most cases, painless. This means that it can be palpated without moving inside the breast and does not reduce in size. These are the characteristics that differentiate a malignant lump from a benign one – which is unrelated to breast cancer.

7. Nodule in the armpit

Breast cancer can also affect the armpit due to the proximity between the two regions. That’s because there are chances of the tumor reaching the lymph nodes (lymph nodes) in the armpit – structures responsible for filtering harmful substances from the body, including cancer cells.

During this process, it is common for the lymph nodes to become swollen, forming a lump in the armpit. When these structures are compromised, the sentinel lymph node is usually the most affected, which performs the first ‘filter’ of suspicious substances. “It is extremely common when we are going to have breast cancer surgery to remove this sentinel lymph node”, explains oncologist Wesley Pereira Andrade.

Read more: Lymph nodes in the breast: know if it’s normal or a sign of cancer

8. Inverted nipple

The nipple is considered inverted when there is a retraction of the organ into the breast. There are some people who already have this condition naturally. The problem, however, is whether the inverted nipple arises with no previous history. This usually happens when the tumor is located behind the areola. This is one of the main symptoms of breast cancer and is usually accompanied by a lump and/or secretion.

9. Nipple with bloody or waxy discharge

“In malignant cases, nipple secretions are spontaneous, with a transparent or bloody appearance and associated with the presence of nodules (lumps) in the breast”, says Heliégina Palmieris, mastologist at the São Camilo SP Hospital Network. This secretion can appear because of an irritation of the tissue located inside the breast duct.

But it is worth noting whether this secretion is associated with other symptoms of breast cancer. After all, most cases of breast secretion are due to benign changes. “Only about 10% are related to breast cancer”, points out the mastologist.

Symptoms of metastatic breast cancer

Breast cancer is considered metastatic when it has spread to other parts of the body, usually to bones, liver, lung, or brain. In such cases, breast cancer symptoms can also include fatigue, shortness of breath, bone pain, itchy skin, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).

What to do when observing these signs?

If you experience any of these symptoms, the next step is to look for a mastologist, who will evaluate the condition and ask for additional tests to reach an assertive diagnosis. Tests usually include an ultrasound of the breasts, mammography, and biopsy.

According to the Ministry of Health, the SUS offers medical care in stages, starting with a consultation with a mastologist and, after confirmation of breast cancer, moving on to a specialized service. This will assess the stage of the tumor and define the most appropriate treatment for the condition – which may include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.



Content for educational purposes only. Consult a Doctor.

The translator user relied on the following source:

Minha Vida Website – REF99827

Disclaimer – (English version>) This content has been prepared based on information from research, additional publications, or the translation/verification work of a volunteer editor of this web council. This is a non-profit service. It is strongly recommended that all details and information published be carefully verified. We never allow medication recommendations, medication package inserts or any medication guidance. We never allow partisan politics as information.

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