Cancer is always scary. It doesn't matter what kind of cancer it is, or what stage it is, hearing a doctor tell you that you have cancer is always going to throw you off.
While cancer is scary, the best chance you have at beating it is to discover it early. Early warning signs aren't always easy to pick up on though, especially when it comes to breast cancer.
Breast cancer is one of the most prevalent forms of the disease, with 12% of American woman will developing it at some point in their lifetime.
That means women have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer, and while that's scary to think about, finding it early is your best chance at beating it.
So how do you find out if you have breast cancer? Don't worry, you don't have to go to the doctors every month for a check up or mammogram, because there are some things you can do at home that will help you recognize when something is wrong.
Signs and symptoms vary between people, but if you are noticing these issues, it would be smart to mention it to your doctor.
Change in breast size or shape
No one has perfectly symmetrical breasts, but if yours start to change drastically there might be something more going on.
Breast cancer doesn't always present itself as a distinctive lump near the surface, sometimes it grows deeper in the tissue, and that will push the rest of the breast tissue out so you will have a harder time seeing any lumps.
Mammograms can miss tumors in women with dense breast tissue, so it's really important to keep a close eye on your body so you can fight for the tests you need when you see something wrong.
If you've been feeling like you are constantly scratching at your chest but it never seems to be getting any better, there may be something wrong.
It happens when cancer cells start to block the lymph and blood vessels just under the skin, causing a build up of fluid that'll make you feel irritated.
It's important to get this symptom checked out as soon as you start experiencing it, because this is often linked with a very aggressive from of cancer.
Pain in your chest and breast
It comes in many ways, but whether it's an ache, a sharp stabbing pain, or just a general discomfort, it shouldn't be ignored.
People experience the pain differently, but this is because tumors can grow in all kinds of different ways.
They may form as a single lump, but they can also grow in tiny little shapes all over the breast. 30% of cancers don't appear as a singular lump, but depending on where they are in the breast they can cause the pain you feel.
Note how often it happens and what it feels like, and bring it up with your doctor as soon as possible. It might end up be something simple like mastitis, but it could be something more.
Back, neck, and shoulder pain
A lot of people ignore their back pain, thinking that it's just overworked or strained, but sometimes a chronic back issue can be trying to warn you of something more.
The pain will usually be felt between your shoulder blades or upper back, but it won't go away when you try to stretch it out.
The pain happens when the tumor forms close to the chest wall. When it grows, it can sometimes push back on your spine, and cause a pain that is felt in your bones.
It's very important to take this issue seriously, because if cancer spreads to your bones, the survival rate drops to an extremely low 8.3%.
Changes to your nipple
Both the appearance and sensitivity of your nipples should be monitored, because it's an easy place to notice changes should something happen.
Watch for things like if your nipples become inverted or flattened, because that may mean something has changed. You can also tell if there is a decrease in sensitivity, which is easy enough to check yourself.
You know best what your nipples have looked like for your whole life, so make sure you bring it up if you notice it changing, because your doctor may not know it's different.
Discharge from your nipple
If you find your breasts start to discharge anything then it is probably time to get it checked. It's one thing if you are a breastfeeding mother, but if you aren't, it may mean that a tumor has grown inside the milk ducts, which causes an infection that forces the discharge to be expelled.
This is another situation where a doctor may say it is mastitis, but if after you complete the antibiotics they give you there is still discharge, make sure you follow up with your doctor.
A lump in your breast or armpit
We all know that we are supposed to check our breasts regularly, but how many of us actually do?
It's not just your breast you need to watch out for though, your breast tissue actually continues back into your armpit much farther than you would have originally thought. It's important to check in your armpit as well, because there may be swelling, tenderness, or a small lump.
This is because the lymph nodes are all connected, and if a tumor is present it can prevent fluid from draining. This causes the swelling and pain, and it may be more prevalent in your armpit than in your actual breast.
Redness, swelling, or inflammation
Normally inflammation is a sign of infection, so it may just be something like mastitis, but if it persists for a long time then it may be that tumors have formed in your breast and are pushing on the tissue causing swelling.
It may feel like your breasts have a fever, and can be warm to the touch, but it's important to get this checked out right away because it can lead to a aggressive form of cancer.