Breast tumour is a tumour that forms in the cells of the breasts; usually a common type of tumour amongst women but rarely with men. Breast tumour could be
a) Benign – where the tumour is not aggressive and can be removed without causing much damage;
b) Malignant – where the tumour is cancerous and aggressive and would require immediate treatment; when the cancer cells from the malignant tumour spread to other organs of the body, forming a secondary tumour – it is referred to as metastatic cancer.
Breast tumour is one of the most common tumour/cancer diagnosed in women. Particularly in India, more and more women especially younger age women are being diagnosed with breast cancer. As per data published by the Breast Cancer India Association, 48% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are below the age of 50 years, which is a highly disturbing trend. However, the sad reality is that breast cancer remains a distant theory until a known or someone near suffers from it. What is lacking is the basic knowledge and awareness of the signs and symptoms of breast tumour, so that one can be more cautious and attentive to any problems that might indicate condition. That said, even when we say symptomatic breast cancer implies that the tumour has already advanced to stage 2B or beyond. This is also one reason for the high mortality rate due to breast cancer. To ensure higher safety and alertness among people, it is important to know the major signs and symptoms of breast tumour.
Lump or hard knot
The first sign to easily detect breast tumour is to spot a lump in the breast. A breast cancer lump is firm and irregularly shaped, may or may not be painful. However, the mere existence of a lump does not certify the existence of a breast tumour. In 80% of the cases, the lump is merely benign and hence, it is smooth and firm/rubbery. However, a cancerous lump is most likely to appear in the upper, outer side of the breasts that extend to the armpit where the tissue is thicker.
Change in the skin’s texture
Breast tumour causes a lot of changes and swelling in the skin cells, causing a change in the texture of the breast skin such as thin, pale, and dry skin around the nipple or thickening of skin anywhere in the breast.
Discharge from the nipple
Nipple discharge is considered normal in women that are breastfeeding their children. However, any other kind of unexplained discharge including clear, milky, yellow, green or red colour can indicate breast cancer and it is advisable to immediately consult a doctor in such a case. That said, a lot of discharges can be non-cancerous and could be caused due to breast infections, birth control pills, change in hormones, thyroid, besides others.
Inflammatory breast cancer is a very aggressive form of cancer, which is often signified by skin dimpling caused by the build-up of lymph fluid in the breast that causes swelling and pain. Any dimpling in the breast should immediately be reported to a doctor.
Changes in lymph node
Lymph nodes are little, round compilation of immune system tissue that strain fluids and clear potentially harmful cells such as bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. When cancer cells shift from the breast, they tend to move up to the lymph node of the same arm, causing swelling. These lymph nodes are firm, tender, swollen and could go unnoticed for a long time.
Pain the nipple or breast
Though breast tumour is never painful, but it is still important to understand and pay attention to any tenderness, pain, or discomfort in the breast or the nipple area. Any such discomfort should be immediately pointed out to the family and the consulting doctor.
Retraction or inversion of the nipple
Breast tumour causes a lot of changes in the cells of the breasts that can lead to the nipples inverting or reversing inwards and could also possibly change the size of the nipple. Sometimes, the changes could be because of ovulation or your menstrual cycle. However, in any case when you spot changes in the nipple, be sure to visit your doctor at the earliest.
Breast discoloration is an alarming sign of breast cancer. Breast cancer alters the cells which can lead to a lot of changes in the skin especially discoloration including red, purple, or bluish tone. In special cases, where the redness is caused by some trauma, you can ignore the redness but if it does not go off, you should urgently consult the doctor.
Swelling is one major symptom of breast tumour. The presence of a breast tumour causes a lot of changes in the cells leading to swelling of the entire breast or an area. This swelling will also reflect in the increasing bra size. That said, the swelling may not leave behind a lump but would surely cause one breast to become bigger than the other. The swelling may be painful, and the breasts’ skin might feel tight.
They say correct information is half the battle already won and thus, it is critical to understand the signs and symptoms that indicate a breast tumour but there is no need to be fearful or panic. Instead, consult a doctor and start the course of treatment as soon as possible.