Signs and Symptoms

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Common Signs of Breast Cancer

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:

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

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.


Through a self-examination routine, women can learn about their bodies and detect any suspicious changes to their breasts that may require medical attention. Learn how to do a breast self exam (PDF).