Breast Cancer Symptoms
It used to be that women with breast cancer would wait until breast cancer symptoms like an open mass on their breasts or blood coming from the nipples would be what brought them to their physician.
However, due to a breast cancer awareness via the media, since the early and mid 1980’s women are much more informed about the importance of preventative monthly breast self examinations (BSE). And they are also aware that they should go for yearly mammogram (breast X-rays) of both breasts when they are 50 years or older.
So the most common symptom now is the detection of a breast lump found through BSE or a suspicious looking lesion found by mammography.
Any change on the skin surface such as reddening, swelling, dimpling or frank ulceration of the skin on a breast should prompt the woman to immediately seek medical advice. Nipple changes such as discoloration, retraction or erosion are also alarm signs.
Armpit lymph nodes (due to lymph glands) or above the collarbone (supraclavicular lymph nodes) or below (infraclavicular nodes) are also serious signs that metastases have already occurred. With regular breast self-examinations and mammography exams these above findings should be a thing of the past.
Late symptoms due to metastases are bone pain (from bone metastases), breathing problems due to pleural effusions or due to lung metastases. Occasionally there are metastases in the brain, the kidneys, adrenal glands or liver metastases.
The following references were used apart from my own clinical experience:
1. Cancer: Principles &Practice of Oncology, 4th edition, by V.T. De Vita,Jr.,et. al J.B. LippincottCo.,Philadelphia, 1993.Vol.2: Chapter 48.
2. The Merck Manual, 7th edition, by M. H. Beers et al., Whitehouse Station, N.J., 1999. Chapter 177.
3. Cancer: Principles&Practice of Oncology. 5th edition, volume 1. Edited by Vincent T. DeVita, Jr. et al. Lippincott-Raven Publ., Philadelphia,PA, 1997. Chapter 36: 1541-1616.
4. BS Herbert et al. Breast Cancer Res 2001;3(3):146-149.
5. BS Herbert et al. J Natl Cancer Inst 2001 Jan 3;93(1):39-45.
6. Conn’s Current Therapy 2004, 56th ed., Copyright © 2004 Elsevier
7. Ferri: Ferri’s Clinical Advisor: Instant Diagnosis and Treatment, 2004 ed., Copyright © 2004 Mosby, Inc