Breast Cancer Signs & Symptoms

Early Symptoms

During the early stages, the breast cancer is small and hard to detect. There are no obvious signs or symptoms for up to three years before the cancer can be felt.

This is why breast screening is important particularly for women over 40 years of age as there is a much higher incidence of breast cancer in women aged 50+.

Detecting early breast cancer before it can develop is important for a positive outcome.

Mammograms are often used for breast screening and can be very effective at detecting early stage breast cancer.

As the cancer grows noticeable symptoms develop as changes in the shape of the breast occur. The way the breast feels can also change.

Signs & Symptoms Include:

  • A new lump in the breast or under the arm (arm pit)
  • A lump that has changed in size and/or shape
  • A change in the shape or size of the breast
  • A constant pain in any part of the breast. Pain in the nipple is a common sign of breast cancer.
  • Red swollen or flaky areas of skin on the breast.
  • Dimpling or irritation of the breast skin.
  • A nipple which is tender to touch or has inverted (turned inwards)
  • Discharge (fluid) from the nipple that is not milk.
  • Symptoms observed from a mammogram include:
    • Dense Mass - breast cancer cells collectively form a tumor; a dense mass which is whiter than surrounding tissue. A dense mass may also be felt as a lump in the breast.
    • Breast microcalcifications - small clusters or lines of calcium indicating an increase in breast tissue cell activity.

Advanced (Metastatic) Symptoms Of Breast Cancer

Metastatic breast cancer (stage 4) is the most advanced stage of breast cancer in which cancer cells have spread from the breast and lymph nodes under the arms to other parts of the body.

Symptoms of advanced breast cancer vary depending on which part of the body is affected.

Each body part affected by advanced breast cancer is given the term 'metastases' after its name.

Bone metastases - a symptom of advanced breast cancer which has spread to the bone is pain in the bone.

Brain metastases
Advanced metastatic breast cancer can also affect the brain. Neurological pain, headaches and fatigue are possible symptoms of brain metastases.
Lung metastases
Shortness of breath is symptom of advanced breast cancer in the lung.
Liver metastases
A drop in appetite often accompanied by a loss in weight are symptoms of breast cancer affecting the liver.