Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Symptoms of Breast Cancer | The Silver Pen

It is important for each and every one of us to know the symptoms of breast cancer. Why, you ask?  Well, I think that at this point, most of us know that breast cancer affects approximately one out of every eight women in the U.S.. Yes ONE in EIGHT. Oh and it’s the second-deadliest cancer affecting women in the country. And people wonder why I call it f-bomb breast cancer.

The Silver Lining is that not every case of breast cancer turns out to be deadly, and improvements in medical care and technology have created many Silver Linings for women diagnosed with breast cancer (i.e., clean bills of health!). Early detection was key for me and can be for other people because it ensures the right treatment and increases the likelihood for a full recovery. This is why it’s so important to learn how to recognize the early signs of breast cancer.

Ok, so here are the ABC’s of Learning to Spot the Early Signs of Breast Cancer:

An annual mammogram will certainly help your doctor find any irregularities in your breast tissue, which can lead to an early diagnosis. Mammograms are recommended for all women over 40, and many doctors recommend that women start receiving them earlier, at 37 or even 35.

Aside from your yearly examination, however, there are many things you can do at home to keep track of the health of your breasts. Here are a few of the early signs of breast cancer that you can identify:

What to Watch For

  • Unusual Nipple Change: You might notice a sore or ulceration, scabbing, burning, itching, dimpling, retraction, or some sort of abnormal discharge.
  • Lumps or hard knots within the breast: Small lumps in the breast, underarm or armpit can be an early sign of breast cancer. If you have a lump, painless or otherwise, that persists more than 10 days, get checked.
  • Pain or Tenderness: If you experience pain in the armpit, underarm or breast and you have not recently strained muscles in those areas, go to the doctor. This was what happened to me…and then I was able to feel a lump!
  • Breast Changes: Flattening, indentation, dimples or puckered skin may signal the presence of a tumor that you cannot see or feel. Additionally, irregular changes in the size or shape of the breast and unexplainable changes in the texture, temperature or skin appearance of your breast are indications to go to the doctor for further assessment.
  • Armpit Swelling: There are many lymph nodes in the armpit. These nodes connect to nodes in the breast and under the arm. Swelling is a sign of trouble and sometimes is an early sign of breast cancer.
  • Other Signs: Two other early signs of breast cancer are areas under the skin that resemble marbles and any area on either breast that clearly looks different from any other area.

The way to identify all of these changes is through a routine self-examination. Your doctor or nurse can show you how to complete this exam. Once you’ve mastered the technique, you can give yourself a quick exam daily while showering, before bed, in the bathroom or whenever else it’s convenient for you. Just please – make sure to make it convenient!

When completing an examination, the key is to look and feel for any changes or irregularities. Each person’s breasts will be somewhat different, and being familiar with the shape, size and texture of your own breast tissue will help you identify immediately when something is new or different.

The only way to know for sure whether the symptom you’re experiencing is one of the early signs of breast cancer or a different type of problem altogether is to confirm with your doctor. It’s best to play it safe and have any kind of irregularities checked out by a physician to rule out cancer or any other serious medical condition. Always, always, always remember to trust your intuition. This is KEY.

I’d love to hear from you. How did you find your cancer. Sharing this information, I find, is so helpful for people going through the experience. After all, it definitely takes a village to go through breast cancer!


  1. Thank you for this list! So many people (mistakenly) believe that there are no signs.

    As a Survivor who had Inflammatory Breast Cancer who had previously not known that there were different types of BC…I would like to underscore…changes in the color of your breast(s), changes in the texture of the skin on your breast (if your breast skin starts to resemble an orange peel) or the inversion of the nipple.

    Thanks again for what you do!!!

  2. Great post of warning signs to watch for BC symptoms, Hollye.

    Annual mammograms are the best policy. However having never failed to have one from age 45 on, the radiologists in a large clinic must have missed mine for some years, because when they spotted the "irregularity" it was already 1.5 cm. You could not feel it by palpitation; then I had a biopsy and the diagnosis was ductal in situ FBC. I had had a previous non-malignant tumor removed some years before, so this was totally unexpected, even by my doctors.

    Keep a watchful eye, and please don't skip any annual mammograms.

  3. I found my cancer on my own. I was definitely one of those people who had a general idea of the landscape of my breast. I was pretty small, barely a b. I typically came out of the shower and did the once over and felt something a little strange on the rights side at 11 o’clock. It was in an area that was close to a duct and typically during my period could feel a little thicker. It was over Memorial Day weekend so nothing could be done until Tuesday so I remember feeling it several times, asking my husband to feel it, unsure if it was something or not. The lump moved around which I assured myself was a good sign but felt a little like a golf ball which was not a good sign. I had no family history and no real risk factors except living in the Northwest where we have a high incidence of breast cancer. I went in first thing on Tuesday morning and the nurse was not concerned but referred me to the breast center. From there it went pretty quickly. I remember the technician was very business like which always makes me nervous and a bit suspicious. I had a biopsy on Friday, a diagnosis on Monday and surgery a week later. It is amazing how quickly life changes. I am grateful to have found my lump. Even when I went in they did not see it on the mammogram it was only with ultrasound that they saw something. One thing I did find out was that I had dense breasts which make it really hard to see anything and make the mammogram not nearly as accurate. If you have dense breast you have a slightly increased risk and need to ask for an ultrasound. The other strange thing about my lump is it sort of popped out and then popped in. So even if something appears one day and then goes away the next….have it checked!!!

    1. Dear Jennifer,
      Thank you so much for sharing! Isn't it amazing – truly astounding – how quickly life can change? You're so right to always encourage people to check out any and all changes. Thanks, again!

  4. As a young woman there was no screening. I found a lump in my breast. However, before that lump was noticed, I had had an extremely itchy/hard nipple for ages. It was never cause for concern, but considering a tumour was growing directly underneath – perhaps it should have been! ~Catherine

  5. I, too, found mine through self exam. My breast had a fever and the lump stuck out like a sore thumb. My doc confirmed it was concerning, I had my first mammogram and ultrasound a few days later. Before leaving, the radiologist sat down with me privately to express his concern. That's when I knew it was serious. I also watched the ultrasound and knew the pictures I was seeing was not good. Met with a surgeon, had a needle biopsy with a grim result. Then surgery 2 weeks later, followed by radiation for a couple of months and I am 6 years and counting. Never let something go. Get it checked and taken care of. It could save your life! So I lost a few lymph nodes and a part of my breast, but I am alive and I am well. That's all that matters and I celebrated my 45th birthday this year. I may have been diagnosed at 39, but the 40s never looked so good to me as they do now!

    1. Thank you for sharing, Cyn. Self exam is so so so important & great advice about getting something checked! I'm thrilled to hear that you are 6 years out. Wonderful news! I feel the exact same way about my 40s! Be well.

  6. Very nice post related to Breast Cancer Symptoms….from our point of view for breast cancer every women need to get early detection and Breast Self Examination is an important steps to control Breast Cancer and you have mention very nicely about breast cancer symptoms and apart from that Risk Factor of Breast cancer and Genetic predisposition to breast cancer also does matter.

    In India breast cancer increasing very rapidly and only due to lack of breast cancer knowledge and many women very shy to visit doctors and not able to explain about her disease.

    Thank you for post.

      1. Women are the heavenly gifts of love and care to the mankind. Now, it’s our time to give them the respect and care that they truly deserve. We are sure; we will do the needful to retain the beautiful smile their faces. So, we appeal to you to please support us in carrying out this communication of social messaging to the lovely ladies you know and send them to us for free cancer screening.

        Thank you Hollye for your support and Wish you a very Happy New Year to you and your family….

  7. With absolutely no symptoms, my annual Mammogram found the cancer. I was so fortunate! My doctor told me about your book and it was incredibly helpful! Mammograms are so critical.

  8. It’s very important for women with dense breasts to get sonograms along with their mammograms. My mammo did not pick up what the sonogram did (1.4cm malignant tumor). If you gynecologist feels you have dense breasts, ask for a prescription to add a sonogram to your annual mammogram.

  9. Had NO symptoms but my mother was diagnosed. January 28 2001 she had lumpectomy. Chemo and radiation and it’s returned ( she has stage 4)..I went to first Dr that DAY and said check me he refused. On February 1 I saw another Dr and WAS. Diagnosed. With stage 2. Had mastectomy and chemo. .my intuition SAVED MY LIFE. .I’ve LOST an aunt and cousin to this. .and NONE of us carry the gene

    1. Thank you for your note, Tammy. So so so happy that your intuition saved your life. Mine did the same. Please take good care!

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