Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Early detection of breast cancer is possible if you know the symptoms to look for. Dr. Harness discusses breast cancer symptoms such as new lumps in the breast or armpit, change in the appearance of the nipple, and dimpling of the skin on the breast. Watch the video to learn those symptoms and more.

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Jay K. Harness, MD, FACS: The kind of symptoms of breast cancer that we worry about is clearly a dominant lump or a mass in the breast that’s new.  It hasn’t been there before, particularly if it’s after the menstrual period, so that’s a symptom that we worry about.

Another symptom that we worry about is if for some reason the nipple is now being pulled in or contracted, or similarly, if the skin of the breast is being dimpled in that wasn’t there before.  That’s a symptom that we could worry about.

Another symptom would be — and I just had a patient like this the other day — a patient discovered a big lump in her armpit area, in the axilla, and actually, what that ended up being was cancer already spread to the lymph node in the axilla yet there was no dominant mass in the breast.

A change of the nature of the nipple is another potential symptom of breast cancer called Paget’s disease.  The nipple looks crusty and scaly, almost like eczema.  That’s another symptom that we worry about.  If the breast suddenly becomes very, very red and swollen, that could be a symptom for either an inflammatory breast cancer or an advanced breast cancer.  It could also be a symptom of a breast abscess.

Any of these symptoms that I just described clearly require the evaluation by a competent breast surgeon, including the appropriate imaging studies.

Dr. Jay K. Harness is a board certified surgeon currently treating patients at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, CA. Dr. Harness specializes in complete breast health, breast cancer surgery, oncoplastic reconstruction, genetic screening, management of breast health issues, risk assessment and counseling. Dr. Harness is the medical director for Breast Cancer Answers.com, and guides this first ever social media show’s information by drawing on his former leadership experience as the President of the American Society of Breast Surgeons and Breast Surgery International. Dr. Harness graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1969 and spent time early on in his career at the University of Michigan Medical Center.

This information should not be relied upon as a substitute for personal medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Use the information provided on this site solely at your own risk.  If you have any concerns about your health, please consult with a physician.