Breast cancer is one of the worst diseases women can face. More than 250,000 women are diagnosed each year, and more than 40,000 women will die from it. This makes it vital for women to understand the warning signs of breast cancer so they can begin treatment as soon as possible. Although some women may assume that the first warning sign is a lump in the breast, there are actually several warning signs that may appear before a lump does. Here are four warning signs that women should be aware of that could be signs of breast cancer. The first sign you may notice is dry or scaly skin. If you’re checking your breasts and you notice a patch of skin that seems dry or rough, that may be a sign of cancer. This occurs because some types of breast cancer cause blockages in the pores of the skin. This will create a rough patch that feels and looks similar to the skin of an orange. If you happen to notice something like this on your breast, you should talk to your doctor and have it looked at. Another common symptom of breast cancer is swelling of the breast. That’s because there may be a lump under the skin that isn’t apparent to the touch but is still there. This swelling would typically be seen in one breast and wouldn’t have another readily apparent explanation. If you notice swelling that changes the size or shape of your breast—in some cases by as much as 6 percent—you should see your doctor. A change in the nipple is another potential sign of breast cancer. In general, your nipples should remain largely unchanged (except for major events such as childbirth). Cancer could be something that alters your nipple’s shape. One thing you may notice is called “nipple inversion,” in which the nipple turns inward. This happens because there’s a growth inside the breast that causes the nipple to change its shape. This is a major red flag. Another problem with the nipple that you may want to look out for is a discharge. Nipple discharge is most often not cancer, but it’s something to keep an eye on if you happen to notice it. The big warning sign with this discharge is if it’s bloody, happens only on one side, or happens when you touch or squeeze the breast. If those are characteristics of your discharge, you should talk to your doctor about your risk for cancer. If you are a woman over 50, you are at an increased risk for breast cancer. This is especially true if you have a family history of this disease. It’s important to perform regular checks to search for lumps or any of the above signs of breast cancer. Considering that this type of cancer affects one in eight women, it’s important to be diligent about recognizing the signs of cancer and working quickly to begin treatment. A lump is certainly a warning sign, but it’s not the only one. If you notice any of the above symptoms, talk to your doctor right away.
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