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Delaying Mammograms During COVID-19 Means Women Must Know Their Normal, Warning Signs

Susan G. Komen has suggested that healthy women of average breast cancer risk who do not have signs of breast cancer delay their annual mammograms that were scheduled for this spring. The recommendation is intended to minimize exposure to and potential spreading of COVID-19 and allow the health care system to focus on treating those in most need of support during this pandemic.

But it is equally important for all women – and men – to know what’s normal for them, understand the warning signs of breast cancer and contact a doctor if something changes. While a lump in the breast is the most common sign that medical attention is needed, there are many other signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

If you notice a change in your breast, contact your doctor right away.

Here are 8 warning signs you should be aware of:

1. A lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area.

Not all lumps are cancer, but all need to be checked. Also did you know, you could also have a hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area? If this happens, see your doctor.

2. Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast

It’s easy to write off color variations as a simple skin irritation or a mystery bruise. But if it doesn’t go away in the normal amount of time, don’t ignore it. It could be a sign of something more serious. An area that’s puffy, painful or hot to the touch is often associated with injury or infection. But in your breasts, these can be signs of inflammatory breast cancer.  Although it’s rare, it’s aggressive, so if you’re feeling the heat, get it looked at right away.

3. Change in the size or shape of the breast

Suddenly feeling lopsided, skewed, or uneven? It might not be your imagination. If you don’t normally have different sized or shaped breasts (many women do) see your doctor.

4. Dimpling or puckering of the skin

A change in the texture of the skin, of the breast, or nipple can also be a sign that something is amiss; see a doctor sooner rather than later.

5. Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple

Unless you’re an ultra-marathon runner, chapped nipples should not be in your repertoire. So, if you’re experiencing irritation, itching, oozing, flaking or scaling skin in one breast and not the other, it’s probably something else. It could be common eczema or an infection of the milk ducts. If it doesn’t resolve itself in a few weeks, see your doctor.

6. Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast

Some women have retracted nipples, so it’s normal that their nipples pull in.  We are suggesting any CHANGE should be reported.

7. Nipple discharge that starts suddenly

For anyone other than nursing mothers, leaking nipples are disconcerting, but it’s rarely a sign of breast cancer. It can be an abscess, a hormonal imbalance, fibrocystic change or some other condition that can be treated. However, if it happens spontaneously without squeezing the nipple, and the discharge appears bloody or clear instead of milky, or occurs in only one breast, it’s something to investigate. Don’t panic, chances are it’s benign, but don’t put it off either.

8. New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away

Many women have painful breasts a week or so before their periods, but this is different. It doesn’t go away once your cycle begins. And while breast pain is more common with benign breast conditions than with breast cancer, the only way to know for sure is to get it checked by a doctor.