While certain symptoms, such as a noticeable lump in one or both breasts, bloody discharge from a nipple, or noticeable changes in the size or texture of the skin around the breasts can be an indication of breast cancer in some cases, not all breast symptoms necessarily indicate the presence of cancer.
In many cases, symptoms in women who are not pregnant or breast feeding can be the result of normal hormonal fluctuations related to menstruation, or a benign breast condition. Understanding what to look for and when to consult with a breast specialist is very important in getting a timely and accurate diagnosis.
Because many of the symptoms of cancer and benign breast conditions tend to overlap, Dr. Khan advises women to seek medical attention for symptoms that do not resolve on their own over a reasonable amount of time (roughly within two to three weeks, depending on the symptoms, and individual circumstances).
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Most Common Breast Symptoms
Pain in one or both breasts can result for a number of reasons, and is rarely the result of cancer. Hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle and benign conditions like intraductal papilloma, a non-cancerous tumor, can also produce pain in the breasts.
Nipple discharge while breastfeeding is normal and usually resolves on its own over time. When it occurs in women who are not nursing, it is typically the result of a benign condition; however, it is advisable to seek medical attention to be sure. In rare cases, bloody nipple discharge can be an indication of breast cancer in some women, particularly if there is also a lump, and if the discharge is isolated to one breast and only affects a single duct.
The most common types of nipple discharge include:
Lump in Breast
While many lumps in the breast are not malignant, they should be examined by a breast specialist to rule out cancer. Benign breast conditions like Fibrocystic breasts result in breast lumps that are not cancerous, but a medical exam is always necessary for an accurate diagnosis.
Potential Causes of Breast Symptoms
Certain symptoms like nipple discharge and breast pain are normal during pregnancy and breastfeeding. While most non-breastfeeding women with symptoms usually do not have cancer, the only way to determine whether an underlying condition is to blame, or whether a symptom is the result of a benign or malignant tumor, is through a comprehensive breast exam and diagnostic testing by a breast care specialist.
The most common causes of breast symptoms are:
- Papilloma (benign tumor)
- Fibroadenoma (benign tumor)
- Fibrocystic breasts (benign breast lumps)
- Galactorrhea (nipple discharge not resulting from breast feeding)
- Breast infection
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
- Breast cancer
Contact a Breast Cancer Specialist Today
For compassionate, professional diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer, do not hesitate to contact Dr. Sadia Khan, a fellowship-trained breast surgeon at Hoag Breast Care Center in Newport Beach. Please call 949.390.9381 to schedule a comprehensive consultation today!
Next, read about Benign Diseases of the Breast.