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An oncology nurse specializing in breast cancer education at VMS BioMarketing recently remarked about the amazing changes she had witnessed in the breast cancer patient journey over the years.
“Patients are now diagnosed earlier; genetic testing is available and easily attainable,” she said. “We now examine the biology of cancer cells and treatments are tailored to the individual with targeted therapies attacking specific cellular changes. One size does not fit all and treatments, like communication techniques, are patient-specific. It is an exciting time in oncology and breast cancer research.”
Despite the impressive advances in oncology, early diagnosis is still one of the most important keys to a successful outcome. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, let’s look at the early warning signs and symptoms of breast cancer so that we can become more informed and better equipped to spread this information among our female coworkers, sisters, mothers, daughters and friends.
The following information is provided by the National Breast Cancer Foundation and much more is available on their website. If you experience any of these abnormalities, please have it checked by your healthcare provider promptly.
- A Change in How the Breast or Nipple Feels
- Nipple tenderness or a lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area
- A change in the skin texture or an enlargement of pores in the skin of the breast (some describe this as similar to an orange peel’s texture)
- A lump in the breast (It’s important to remember that all lumps should be investigated by a healthcare professional, but not all lumps are cancerous.)
- A Change in the Breast or Nipple Appearance
- Any unexplained change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling anywhere on the breast
- Unexplained swelling of the breast (especially if on one side only)
- Unexplained shrinkage of the breast (especially if on one side only)
- Recent asymmetry of the breasts (Although it is common for women to have one breast that is slightly larger than the other, if the onset of asymmetry is recent, it should be checked.)
- Nipple that is turned slightly inward or inverted
- Skin of the breast, areola, or nipple that becomes scaly, red, or swollen or may have ridges or pitting resembling the skin of an orange
- Any Nipple Discharge—Particularly Clear Discharge or Bloody Discharge
- It is also important to note that a milky discharge that is present when a woman is not breastfeeding should be checked by her doctor, although it is not linked with breast cancer.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation offers a free guide about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer to every woman who requests it. To receive the guide, visit the website.