Breast Cancer

You Should Be Aware of These Signs of Breast Cancer

Here's what to look for beyond your regular self-breast exams.

There are many possible indicators of breast cancer and they’re not as obvious as mass that you can feel. A recent article discussed a warning sign of breast cancer called “skin of an orange,” or peau d’orange, which refers to the skin on the surface of the breast having one or more dimples that resemble that of an orange peel. And while this may be an indicator of a very specific type of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer, Dr. Veronica Jones, Assistant Clinical Professor in the Division of Surgical Oncology, Department of Surgery at City of Hope, tells SurvivorNet, it’s a very rare type of the disease to get.

“With peau d’orange, the breast becomes swollen, you have increased pore size and it looks like an orange peel when you have inflammatory breast cancer. But that is a very rare type of breast cancer, and that is not at all one of the most common signs of breast cancer,” she says. “If you do see it, then absolutely go to your healthcare provider, but if you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean that you’re safe.”

 

Inflammatory breast cancer is more likely to occur in younger women (the average age is 52, as opposed to 57 for other types of breast cancer) and is a particularly aggressive type of cancer. Its unique symptoms, which usually come on quickly within 3-6 months, are caused by the cancer cells blocking the lymph vessels in the skin. However, as of 2009, it only occurred in approximately 1.6 out of every 100,000 women, according to an NIH study.

So, Dr. Jones says, there are other signs you should look for, as well, that may indicate other, more common types of breast cancers. And while a lot of people know to look for a lump, there are other, more subtle signs that may not be so obvious. “Besides the mass, you’re looking for changes in skin such as redness, changes in the size of the breast—either increasing in size or decreasing in size—changes in the nipple—those are all signs that you should pay attention to and bring up with a healthcare provider.” Further, she continues, if you notice the breast pulling inwards, you should be sure to mention it to a doctor, because potentially cancerous tumors can pull the tissue around it.

The biggest thing she recommends is to know what your breasts look like normally so you notice when something looks different—because any change warrants a conversation with your doctor to rule out any issues.

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