Breast cancer: The lesser-known sign that can actually be far more serious – symptoms

Sarah Harding: Dr Hilary outlines breast cancer symptoms

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Breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the breast begin to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way and eventually form a growth. Cancer Research UK explains that breast cancer often starts in the breast tissue, most commonly in the cells that line the milk ducts of the breast. It is estimated that around one in eight women in the UK develop breast cancer during their lifetime. If detected early it tends to be treatable.

Cancer Research notes: “The first symptom of breast cancer most people notice is a lump in their breast or some thickening.”

Nonetheless, there are a number of other signs to be aware of. For example, changes in the position of the nipple and fluid leaking from the nipple in a woman who isn’t pregnant or breastfeeding.

Giulia Guerrini, lead pharmacist at digital pharmacy Medino commented: “There are a number of symptoms that are lesser-known, which include breast puckering, an itchy or scaly rash on the nipple, or breast pain post-menopause.”

She adds: “One of the least commonly known symptoms, however, is a dent in your breast.”

Giulia explains: “We’re all told to look for bumps and lumps, and don’t know that a dent can actually be far more serious in some cases – often not revealing itself until the breast cancer is quite advanced.”

The pharmacist explains: “With breast cancer being very treatable if caught early enough, it’s essential that women know exactly what to look for when it comes to noticing irregularities with their breasts, and it’s important that they get screenings as often as possible – especially for those who have a history of breast cancer within their family.”

She adds: “If you have any concerns about your breasts, don’t feel you’re being paranoid or worry about wasting your doctor or nurses’ time: that’s what they are there for, and it could just save your life.”

Indeed, Cancer Research notes: “Your symptoms may not be due to breast cancer, and they may not make you feel unwell. But it is important that any symptoms you have are checked by a doctor, even if you are feeling well. The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful.”

The cause of breast cancer is not entirely understood, but there are certain risk factors that may increase your risk, the NHS said.

You may have a higher chance of developing breast cancer if you have close relatives that have had breast cancer.

You could lower your risk of cancer, as well as a number of other conditions, by eating a healthy, balanced diet, and by regularly exercising.

NHS breast screening checks use X-rays to look for cancers that are too small to see or feel. Anyone registered with a GP as female will be invited for NHS breast screening.

You’ll automatically get your first invite for breast screening between the ages of 50 and 53. Then you’ll be invited every three years until you turn 71.

It is also important to check your breasts, and the NHS says there’s no right or wrong way to check your breasts “but it’s important to know how your breasts usually look and feel”.

The NHS says: “Look at your breasts and feel each breast and armpit, and up to your collarbone. You may find it easiest to do this in the shower or bath, by running a soapy hand over each breast and up under each armpit.

“You can also look at your breasts in the mirror. Look with your arms by your side and also with them raised.”

Nonetheless, you should see a GP if you have any symptoms of breast cancer even if you have recently had a clear breast screening.

You will usually get your results within two weeks of your breast screening appointment.

Cancer Research UK says that breast cancer risk can be affected by age, family history and lifestyle factors such as obesity and smoking.

The NHS notes: “Some treatments are available to reduce the risk in women who have a higher risk of developing the condition than the general population.”

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