In most cases, there are no early warning signs of breast cancer. Breast cancer may not produce any early symptoms, and in many cases, it is first discovered on screening mammography. The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass in the breast. In addition, the following are possible signs of breast cancer:
Thickening or lump in the breast that feels different from the surrounding area
Inverting of the nipple (as a change from the previous appearance)
Nipple discharge or redness (especially any bloody discharge)
Breast or nipple pain
Swelling in your armpit or collarbone could mean breast cancer has spread to lymph nodes in that area
Swelling of part of the breast
Changes in the skin of the breast
Skin dimpling (peau d’orange)
Lymph node changes
Dimpling or Puckering of the Breast Skin
Recent Breast Asymmetry
What are the different types of breast cancer?
There are many types of breast cancer. Some are more common than others, and there are also combinations of cancers. Some of the most common types of cancer are as follows:
Ductal carcinoma in situ: The most common type of non-invasive breast cancer is ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). This early-stage breast cancer has not spread and therefore usually has a very high cure rate.
Invasive ductal carcinoma: This cancer starts in the milk ducts of the breast and grows into other parts of the surrounding tissue. It is the most common form of breast cancer. About 80% of invasive breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinoma.
Invasive lobular carcinoma: This breast cancer starts in the milk-producing glands of the breast. Approximately 10% of invasive breast cancers are invasive lobular carcinoma.
Most Invasive ductal and lobular cancers express hormone receptors such as the estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR). Some tumors express a growth protein known as HER2. Triple-negative breast cancers are a subtype of invasive cancer with cells that lack estrogen and progesterone receptors and have no excess of a specific protein (HER2) on their surface. It tends to appear more often in younger women and African-American women.
The remainder of breast cancers are much less common and include the following:
Mucinous carcinoma are formed from mucus-producing cancer cells. Mixed tumors contain a variety of cell types.
Medullary carcinoma is an infiltrating breast cancer that presents with well-defined boundaries between the cancerous and noncancerous tissue.
Inflammatory breast cancer: This cancer makes the skin of the breast appear red and feel warm (giving it the appearance of an infection). These changes are due to the blockage of lymph vessels by cancer cells.
Paget’s disease of the nipple: This cancer starts in the ducts of the breast and spreads to the nipple and the area surrounding the nipple. It usually presents with crusting and redness around the nipple.
Adenoid cystic carcinoma: These cancers have both glandular and cystic features. They tend not to spread aggressively and have a good prognosis.
Lobular carcinoma in situ: This is not a cancer but an area of abnormal cell growth. This pre-cancer can increase the risk of invasive breast cancer later in life.
The following are other uncommon types of breast cancer:
What causes breast cancer?
There are many risk factors that increase the chance of developing breast cancer. Although we know some of these risk factors, we don’t know the cause of breast cancer or how these factors cause the development of a cancer cell.
We know that normal breast cells become cancerous because of mutations in the DNA, and although some of these are inherited, most DNA changes related to breast cells are acquired during one’s life.
Proto-oncogenes help cells grow. If these cells mutate, they can increase the growth of cells without any control. Such mutations are referred to as oncogenes. Such uncontrolled cell growth can lead to cancer.
What are symptoms of a male breast cancer?
Breast cancer is rare in men (approximately 2,400 new cases diagnosed per year in the U.S.) but typically has a significantly worse outcome. This is partially related to the often late diagnosis of male breast cancer, when the cancer has already spread.
Symptoms are similar to the symptoms in women, with the most common symptom being a lump or change in skin of the breast tissue or nipple discharge.
Although it can occur at any age, male breast cancer usually occurs in men over 60 years of age.