Breast Cancer Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Risk Factors
Although 80 percent of breast lumps turn out NOT to be cancer, finding a lump can be upsetting. While it is important not to panic (easier said than done), it also is important to have any change in your breasts checked by a healthcare professional.
Potential Breast Cancer Symptoms
Breast health concerns that should be checked by a doctor include:
- Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast
- Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
- Change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling or puckering of the skin
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
- Nipple discharge or bleeding that starts suddenly
New, unexplained pain is rarely associated with cancer, though it can be. Call your physician or the Hoffman Breast Health Center at (860) 714-6318 if pain persists through a menstrual cycle or for a month if you are no longer menstruating.
The Hoffman Breast Health Center at Saint Francis specializes in follow-up care for women who have had an abnormal mammogram or have concerns about breast changes. If you have concerns or would like a second opinion, call the center at (860) 714-6318 or ask your healthcare provider for a referral.
What to expect following an abnormal mammogram
If you have had an abnormal mammogram, ultrasound, or MRI, please bring your films or discs and printed reports to Hoffman Breast Health Center on the day of your visit. When you arrive, a radiologist will review your imaging results and offer a second opinion. Based on that opinion, and a physical examination by a surgeon, you may be referred for one or more of these follow-up tests at the soonest available date:
- Follow-up imaging study (mammogram, ultrasound and/or MRI)
- Ultrasound-guided biopsy
- Stereotactic biopsy
- Surgical biopsy
Learn more about breast biopsies...
Please note: Follow-up tests are rarely performed on the day of the initial consultation.
A recommendation for treatment will be made based on the results of the follow-up tests. Learn about Saint Francis breast cancer specialists, programs, and more...
Breast changes that are not cancer
These changes are not cancer and do not increase your risk of breast cancer. They are called benign changes.
Adenosis: Small, round lumps, or a lumpy feeling that are caused by enlarged breast lobules. Sometimes the lumps are too small to be felt. If there is scar-like tissue, the condition may be painful and is called sclerosing adenosis.
Cysts: Lumps filled with fluid. Breast cysts often get bigger and may be painful just before your menstrual period begins. Cysts are most common in premenopausal women and in women who are taking menopausal hormone therapy.
Fat necrosis: Round, firm lumps that usually don't hurt. The lumps most often appear after an injury to the breast, surgery, or radiation therapy.
Fibroadenomas: Hard, round lumps that may feel like a small marble and move around easily. They are usually painless and are most common in young women under 30 years old.
Intraductal papilloma: A wart-like growth in a milk duct of the breast. It is usually found close to the nipple and may cause clear, sticky, or bloody discharge from the nipple. It may also cause pain and a lump. It is most common in women 35-55 years old.
Breast changes that are not cancer, but increase your risk of cancer
These conditions are not cancer, but having them increases your risk of breast cancer. They are considered risk factors for breast cancer. Other risk factors include, for example, your age and a family history of breast cancer.
Atypical lobular hyperplasia (ALH) is a condition in which abnormal cells are found in the breast lobules.
Atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH) is a condition in which abnormal cells are found in the breast ducts.
Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) is a condition in which abnormal cells are found in the breast lobules. There are more abnormal cells in the lobule with LCIS than with ALH. Since these cells have not spread outside the breast lobules, it is called "in situ," which is a Latin term that means "in place."
Radial scars are complex breast lesions that are classified as benign, but because up to 40 percent of them are associated with an underlying cancer, a surgical biopsy is necessary to determine if cancer is present.
What to do if you're diagnosed with ALH, ADH, or LCIS?
If you have ALH, ADH, or LCIS, talk with a doctor who specializes in breast health to make a plan that works best for you. Depending on your personal and family medical history, it may include:
- Mammograms every year
- Clinical breast exams every 6 to 12 months
- Tamoxifen (for all women) or raloxifene (for postmenopausal women) and a class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors that have been shown to lower some women's risk of breast cancer.
- Surgery. A small number of women with LCIS and high risk factors for breast cancer may choose to have surgery.
- Clinical trials. Talk with your health care provider about whether a clinical trial is a good choice for you.
Source: National Cancer Institute