The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Warning Signs of Breast Cancer

If you have warning signs of breast cancer, it’s important to see a doctor, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Don’t put off seeing a doctor if you notice a change in your breast or underarm area.

Warning signs

The warning signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women.

The most common signs are:

  • A change in the look or feel of the breast OR
  • A change in the look or feel of the nipple OR
  • Nipple discharge

If you have any of the warning signs described below, see a health care provider [18-19].

If you don’t have a provider, one of the best ways to find a good one is to get a referral from a trusted family member or friend.

If that’s not an option, call your health department, a clinic or a nearby hospital. If you have insurance, your insurance company may also have a list of providers in your area.

Learn more about finding a health care provider

Warning Signs - Lump
Warning Signs - Swelling
Warning Signs - Size
Warning Signs - Pucker
Warning Signs - Scaly Sore
Warning Signs - NippleIn
Warning Signs - Discharge
Warning Signs - Pain

In most cases, these changes are not cancer.

One example is breast pain. Pain is more common with benign breast conditions than with breast cancer, but the only way to know for sure is to get it checked.

If the change turns out to be breast cancer, it’s best to find it at an early stage, when the chances of survival are highest.

Breast lumps or lumpiness

Many women find their breasts feel lumpy. Breast tissue naturally has a bumpy texture.

Some women have more lumpiness in their breasts than others. In most cases, this lumpiness is no cause to worry.

If the lumpiness can be felt throughout the breast and feels like your other breast, then it’s likely normal breast tissue.

Lumps that feel harder or different from the rest of the breast (or the other breast) or that feel like a change should be checked. This type of lump may be a sign of breast cancer or a benign breast condition (such as a cyst or fibroadenoma).

See a health care provider if you:

  • Find a new lump (or any change) that feels different from the rest of your breast
  • Find a new lump (or any change) that feels different from your other breast
  • Feel something that’s different from what you felt before

If you’ve had a benign lump in the past, don’t assume a new lump will also be benign. The new lump may not be breast cancer, but it’s best to make sure. 

Nipple discharge

Liquid leaking from your nipple (nipple discharge) can be troubling, but it’s rarely a sign of breast cancer.

Discharge can be your body’s natural reaction when the nipple is squeezed.

Signs of a more serious condition (such as breast cancer) include discharge that:

  • Occurs without squeezing the nipple
  • Occurs in only one breast
  • Is bloody or clear (not milky)

Nipple discharge can also be caused by an infection or other condition that needs treatment.

If you have any nipple discharge, see a health care provider. 

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