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Breast Cancer: Symptoms

Image of clinical signs of cancer
(Click for larger image) Skin dimpling may be a sign of breast cancer.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

Breast cancer often causes no symptoms in its early stages, when it's very small and has not spread. Women with early breast cancer usually don’t have pain or notice any breast changes caused by the cancer. This is why routine screening tests are important. They are often able to detect the disease in its early stages.

As breast cancer grows, it can cause symptoms such as: 

  • A lump, thickening, or swelling in or near your breast or under your arm

  • A change in the size or shape of your breast

  • Nipple discharge that's often bloody and only in one breast

  • Nipple inversion, meaning the nipple pulls back into your breast

  • Nipple or breast pain, tenderness, or aching

  • A change in the look of the skin of your breast, areola, or nipple, such as becoming dimpled or puckered or turning red or purple

  • A change in the feel of the skin of your breast, areola, or nipple, such as turning itchy or scaly

When to see your healthcare provider

Many of these symptoms may be caused by other health problems. But it is important to see your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms. Only a healthcare provider can tell if you have cancer.

Online Medical Reviewer: Levy, Adam S, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2017
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.