Breast cancer

Updated 15 November 2017

Symptoms of breast cancer

One of the earliest symptoms of breast cancer is a lump in the breast - something that can be picked up when examining your own breasts. While the majority of breast lumps are non-cancerous, it is important to consult your doctor just to be safe!

Like many other cancers, breast cancer in its early stages has no discernable symptoms. Breast lumps can be one of the first symptoms, but it must be remembered that the majority of breast lumps are not cancerous. But that is no reason to ignore them.

Breast lumps are usually painless. They usually disappear after the end of a menstrual cycle. If they don’t, they should be checked out.

Mammograms can detect breast tumours before they can be felt by hand.

Here are some common symptoms of breast cancer once a tumour has formed:

- An unusual nipple discharge, which is sometimes stained with blood

- A retraction of the nipple, so that it no longer points outwards

- A rash or crusting on the nipples

- A lump or swelling in the lymph glands in the armpit

- Breast pain or discomfort which persists after the end of the menstrual cycle

- A sharp pain in the breast

- Colour, shape and texture changes in the nipple

- An area on the breast surface that takes on a marble-like appearance, because the veins beneath the skin are visible

- Changes in the shape or contour of the breast. An indentation could be a sign that a tumour has formed, even though you might not be able to feel it.

- One breast becomes significantly larger or lower than the other one

- A change in the texture of the skin on the breast. It is often described as an ‘orange-peel’ texture

- An area on the breast that feels unusually hot to the touch

Read more:

What is breast cancer?

Diagnosing breast cancer

Treating breast cancer

Sources: Health24;;; Breast Cancer Campaign


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Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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