Here’s a startling statistic: One in six women diagnosed with breast cancer had symptoms—other than a lump—that they should have been aware of.
The survey, which was done by researchers in the United Kingdom in 2016, examined data from more than 2,300 women diagnosed with breast cancer. Researchers found that, although most women who turned out to have breast cancer sought help quickly, those who discovered an actual lump sought help more quickly than those who found only “non-lump” symptoms.
The conclusion of the study? Women need to be more aware of the many breast cancer symptoms, which the American Cancer Society says include the following:
• Breast swelling. Even if no lump is felt, this is a symptom that should be checked out if swelling persists.
• Nipple abnormalities. These include nipple discharge other than breast milk, as well as nipple retraction and changes in the size or shape of the nipple.
• Breast or nipple pain. It’s important to note that breast pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer, but should be checked out when it occurs alongside other possible symptoms, such as nipple discharge, inflammation or a lump.
• Skin irritation or dimpling. This is sometimes described as skin that looks like an orange peel.
• Redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin.
• A lump in the breast or armpit. The good news is that around 80 percent of breast lumps turn out to be non-cancerous, according to BreastCancer.org. With that said, all breast lumps should be evaluated by a medical professional, who will help you decide how to proceed.
Except for skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer women face. According to the American Cancer Society, the average woman in the United States has about a 12 percent chance of developing breast cancer during her lifetime. That equates to about one out of every eight women.
The good news is that breast cancer deaths dropped 39 percent from 1989 to 2015—a statistic many attribute to improved treatments, as well as increased screening and awareness.
Different agencies have different screening suggestions. At Fisher-Titus, we follow the guidelines of organizations such as the American College of Radiology, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, which all recommend annual mammography beginning at age 40.
If that sounds complicated, it doesn’t have to be. Take the time to have a conversation with your doctor about your unique situation—and what the best option is for you. Age and family history will come into play when making a decision, as will your personal preferences.
A mammogram is still the gold standard when it comes to breast cancer detection. Fisher-Titus is proud to offer 3D mammography. Learn more about its benefits and how it differs from traditional, 2D mammography with our guide, The Benefits of 3D Mammography.