Signs and Symptoms

Through a self-examination routine, women can learn about their bodies and detect any suspicious changes to their breasts that may require medical attention.

The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A mass that is painless, hard and has irregular edges is more likely to be cancerous, but breast cancers can also be tender, soft or rounded. They can even be painful. For this reason, it is important to have any new mass, lump or breast change checked by a doctor.

Other possible signs of breast cancer include:

  • Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • A nipple discharge other than breast milk

Sometimes a breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm or around the collarbone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the original tumor in the breast tissue is large enough to be felt. Swollen lymph nodes should also be reported to your doctor.

Learn how to do a breast self exam (PDF)