Breast cancer - the infamous lady killer.
Breast cancer is not only the most common form of cancer among Singaporean women, it is also the top cause of cancer deaths. According to a report published by the Singapore Cancer Registry in 2016, the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer has doubled over the last 40 years. However, all hope is not lost. Research has shown that the earlier cancer is detected, the higher the chances of successful treatment. This is why you should look out for possible signs of breast cancer by doing regular breast self-examinations! On top of checking for breast lumps, here are six other symptoms to look out for:
1. Changes in breast size or shape
Many things can cause your breasts to grow or shrink – periods, pregnancy, menopause, and even weight gain or loss. However, if you notice changes in one breast or you suspect other reasons for the change, it is best to consult a doctor.
2. Changes in breast texture
Look out for rashes, redness or dimpling (when the skin develops an orange-peel texture) on your breasts. Most of the time, these could a sign of mastitis, a common infection affecting breastfeeding women. In some cases, the rashes could be a sign of Paget’s disease of the nipple, while dimpling could signal inflammatory breast cancer, a rare but aggressive form of breast cancer.
3. Discharge from the nipple
If you are breastfeeding or in your 40s or 50s, you may have noticed discharge from both breasts. While this is normal, you should see a doctor if you notice blood-stained discharge or discharge from only one nipple.
4. Changes in shape of the nipple
Should you notice your nipple turn inwards (become retracted), see your doctor immediately. Nipple retraction can happen if the milk duct behind the nipple is attacked by a tumor. Your doctor will perform a full physical examination and administer a mammogram or ultrasound before he or she can diagnose the issue.
5. Swelling around the breast area
Hormonal changes during can cause swelling in your breast. On the other hand, swelling in the armpit where your lymph nodes are located could be a sign that your body is fighting an invasion. This could be another sign of inflammatory breast cancer and you ought to check with your doctor.
6. Unusual pain in your breast or armpit
Unfortunately, breast tenderness or pain is an inconvenience many women have to deal with when they get their period. However, if the pain persists after your period or if you experience pain only in one breast, do consult your doctor.
Many of these symptoms do not develop overnight, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the normal look and feel of your breasts. Get into the habit of doing regular breast self-examinations and visit your doctor if you notice anything unusual. Although these signs are not definite indications of breast cancer, it is better to be safe than sorry. Remember, early detection is key! Do not wait until you are feeling unwell as it could be too late.
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