The breast cancer symptoms women should know

Breast cancer affects millions of people around Australia. Whether you have been through the disease yourself, or you know someone
Mature woman taking her pulse rate against a white background

Breast cancer affects millions of people around Australia. Whether you have been through the disease yourself, or you know someone who has, most of us have dealt with cancer in some way.

While most women over 50 know to have regular mammograms and checkups to monitor their breast health, there are other symptoms you should be looking out for too.

Many women know to look out for lumps forming in the breast, but what about other tell-tale signs that could point to something serious?

National Breast Cancer Foundation leadership fellow, Professor Nehmat Houssami, says women should take notice of any changes they notice in their breasts and nipples.

“A change in the size or shape of the breast can indicate something is wrong,” Professor Houssami told The New Daily.

“But it is common to have slight differences in breast symmetry, so I’m talking about a sudden change.”

She says changes like nipple crusting, ulceration, redness or inversion can be signs of breast cancer and should be followed up by your doctor.

Specifically, if you notice discharge around the nipple area, general pain in the breast area, or redness or dimpling, you should head to your GP for a check up.

When it comes to lumps there is no hard and fast rule for how they should look and feel.

“There are no absolute rules about what a lump feels like,” says Professor Houssami.

“It’s simply an area that feels different to the woman’s normal breast lumpiness – it may be more distinct or harder than other areas, it may be round and may be mobile, it may be ill-defined and not mobile.”

It’s important for women to get to know their breasts so they can detect when there are changes or slight differences developing.

“Be aware of the normal look and feel of your breasts and report unusual breast changes to your health professional,” says Professor Houssami.

“Breast tissue is normally ‘lumpy’, and the lumpiness varies between women, so be aware of the normal feel and lumpiness of your breasts.”

Thousands of women around Australia are unfortunately diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and it’s important to understand how to cope with such an experience.

“People often feel overwhelmed, scared, anxious and upset, these are all normal feelings,” says Professor Houssami.

“Having practical and emotional support during and after diagnosis and treatment for cancer is very important.

“Support may be available from family and friends, health professionals or special support services.”

Have you or anyone you know been through breast cancer? Do you regularly check your breasts for signs of changes?

Important reminder: women aged 50-75 are eligible for a free mammogram every two years from BreastScreen Australia; women outside this age range can also book a free screening on request. Call 13 20 50 to book an appointment today.

  1. Deb Morgans  

    I am currently undergoing radiotherapy for breast cancer.
    Very fortunately I do not need chemo because my lump was found early through screening.
    2 Breast Surgeons could not feel my lump, even though they could see it on the mammograms and ultrasound.
    This is because my 9mm lump was against the breast wall.
    Self examination and awareness of changes are vital, but please remember your screeing appointments.

  2. Jayjen  

    Please all women have your regular mammograms and ultra sounds if possible. My lump was found through a regular mammogram, but I couldn’t feel it. It was massive, 8cm x 2cm tapering to 1cm, lying on my chest wall. A very aggressive lump as I had regular screening. It had grown this big between screenings! I didn’t have huge breasts either but still I couldn’t feel during self examination. The surgeon who did my mastectomy had some difficulty finding it at first too, although she had the mammogram and ultra sound to guide her.

    After the mastectomy followed chemo and radiation. No matter what, it is not a good experience. I am almost two years out from original diagnosis and I am still affected both mentally and physically although each day is a sweet experience. I look forward to each day as it comes and try very hard to be positive and strong. Know your breasts and please book your mammograms resularly.

  3. 2 years ago I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I had a Lobular Tumor. I had undergone mammograms & spoke to many Dr’s but was given many opinions, so I believed them. Finally I noticed a change with my nipple, it was becoming inverted & I decided no more I went to a new Dr & she took one look and insisted on an ultrasound & that is when she told me yes you have Breast Cancer. So the mammogram does not detect Lobular Tumors I was told by my surgeon, another shock. Anyway my journey began with a mastectomy followed by Chemo & Radiation. That was hard. My life now has its ups & down, emotions play a big part but I wake to a wonderful day with my love ones all around me. Feeling blessed. Ladies one piece of advise, if you are not happy with a result ask for an Ultrasound. God bless you all ladies out there.

  4. Jennifer Hooper  

    My half-sister had it and it proved to gentic though tankfully on on our mum’s side she is in remission and I hope it doesn’t spread elsewhere.

  5. Carol Lent  

    I have 2 more rounds of Chemotherapy to go over the next 6 weeks following a mastectomy.My tumour was a carcinoma Sarcoma which is very rare in the breast.I always kept my Mammogram Appointments,but knew something was wrong as I had pain in my right breast and was sent for an ultrasound 12 months and again 6 months later but was given the all clear. The first u/s stated there was some swelling and elongation of some lactiferous ducts.Fortunately it was stage 2 with no spread to the lymph nodes.My 38 year old daughter is now going to have a Mammogram every two years following my diagnosis for peace of mind.

  6. I have just had a 8mm lump removed and now all my lymph glands ..only 4 out of the 30 lymph nodes were cancerous is the most aggressive and they are pushing for me to have chemo and radio therapy..Im not going down that path but I’m using frankincense oil and marajuana oil and gumby gumby which is an aboriginal herb and very effective ..Im doing this because my mother has the gene that if you have chemo it fast tracks dementia…and it did !!.i also have Parkinsons Disease which I’ve had for 13 yrs and I’m still medication free ..i don’t know what chemo will do to my PD and I’m not prepared to take the risk ..this is my choice and not necessarily someone else’s ..but it is my choice ..dont ever let the doctor make you believe otherwise..!!!

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