Summary: The warning signs of breast cancer are usually visual and may include lumps found within the breast and nearby lymph nodes. Non visual indicators include pain and skin irritation around the breast area. Self examination & regular breast screenings promote early detection of this disease which is crucial for a better prognosis.
The image below shows breast cancer which has affected the breast area and the nearby lymph nodes underneath the arm and chin.
Not all these signs are visual and patients with breast cancer may not experience all of these symptoms. Pain and itchiness of the skin are listed but not shown on the graphic.
In many cases lumps are benign (non cancerous). If you are experiencing any of these symptoms please visit your doctor but try to remain calm. These signs may be harmless.
Breast cancer is a disease in which cancer cells initially develop within the breast. In the beginning there is usually no physical indication that the patient has breast cancer.
As breast cancer cells multiply and invade surrounding breast tissue, tumors (commonly referred to as lumps) may develop; there may also be other visual signs of breast cancer (see 'Things To Look For' above).
When breast cancer is at an advanced stage, breast cancer cells have invaded areas of the body away from the breast bringing further signs and symptoms. For example, if breast cancer has spread to the spine (metastasized), a condition known as malignant spinal cord compression may arise, in which tumors interrupt nerve signals along the spinal cord. This can bring further complications including problems with movement.
A better prognosis is given when breast cancer is detected at an early stage of development. Women should examine their breasts on a regular basis to increase the likelihood of early detection.
It's important to note that whilst regular self examination is encouraged, mammograms are more effective in detecting lumps within the breast. Women should regularly attend breast screenings.
Also, whilst breast cancer is more common in women, it can also affect men. Therefore, men should be also be aware of these signs and visit their doctor if any are shown or experienced.
See also: more in depth information on the symptoms of breast cancer.