There are a number of symptoms of breast cancer which mystifies a lot of people especially women. And the best remedy for that is proper education and training – even while you are young.

Your health care needs change as you age so you should never feel complacent about your health. While it is true that prevention is better than the cure, early diagnosis can also help save a life. Believe it or not, breast cancer symptoms can be self-diagnosed. There are methods and ways to do it on your own, in your own time, and in the privacy of your own home.

Unfortunately, there are various myths and old wives tales surrounding this dreaded illness. Like how wearing a wired bra or using antiperspirants can lead to breast cancer. Their persistence in society has lent it credence and, sadly, true. The thing is, both of these has already been debunked by even Dr Wong Seng Weng who is the Medical Director of the Singapore Medical Group’s Cancer Center.

Parts of your breasts

In order to understand the symptoms of breast cancer, you have to know your breast thoroughly. Surprisingly, not all women are aware of this list. Since knowledge is the first step to preventing any problem from occurring, it is ideal know the main parts of your breasts are. At the very least, this will help you detect and check yourself for any symptoms.

  • Lobules – These are your milk-producing glands located on the top part of your breast
  • Ducts – These ducts carry the milk you produce from the lobules to the nipples
  • Nipples – This is where milk comes out from your lobules
  • Stroma – These are the fatty tissues found in your breast. It surrounds almost all parts inside not only the lobules and ducts but even blood vessels.

What is breast cancer

Simply put, breast cancer is made up of breast cells that became abnormal. It multiplied, spread out, and got out control. This then leads to a formation of a mass or lump which is referred to as a tumour. In contrast, healthy breast cells divide as well but within control and order. Most of the time tumours grow in the lobules, the ducts, or the fatty tissues in the breast.

There are two types of tumours – malignant and benign. A malignant tumour is cancerous while a benign tumour is non-cancerous. According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the foremost type of cancer in women all over the world. In the country, SingHealth shares that over 1,800 women were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2010 and 2014. Of all the women diagnosed with cancer, 1 out of 4 is diagnosed with breast cancer.

Breast cancer symptoms

It is important to take note that symptoms of breast cancer can manifest more as women age. However, not all lumps and tumours are cancerous because there are times when the menstrual cycle makes the breast feel lumpy. With this in mind, here are a few of the symptoms you need to look out for.

Any of these symptoms will tell you how you should act – if you should ignore it or go to a physician immediately. Never put your health in the back-seat. You know the saying that health is wealth? That is true on so many levels. It is important to look out for these because there is usually no manifestation of pain in the early stages of breast cancer.

Breast lump

Among the symptoms of breast cancer, lumps top the list as the most common sign of early cancer formation. The lump could either be a bump or a hardening in the breast. You will notice that this can be moved around but later on becomes immobile. One thing to remember is that pain is not common when you have breast lumps.

Nipples puckered down

If you notice that your nipples are seemingly being pulled inward, it can be one of the symptoms of breast cancer. The reason for this is that the cancer is pulling the skin towards the inside part of your breast.

Nipple discharge

Generally speaking, unusual bleeding is a sign of concern. Lung cancer can result to coughing blood and even colon cancer can produce blood in the stool. In the same manner, blood discharge from your nipple could be a sign of breast cancer. However, it is not always about blood as the discharge can be clear as well. It is also important to take note if the discharge comes from multiple ducts or just from single spots in your nipple.

Enlarged underarm lymph glands

While it is not really a part of your breast, you should also pay attention to your armpits to feel if there is a lump. If there is, it can be a sign of breast cancer. The lymph nodes in the underarm are commonly the primary target of breast cancer– especially when a tumour has already spread.

Pain in the breast

Pain is usually at the bottom of the list when you talk about symptoms of breast cancer but it is not uncommon. However, pain is usually centred on where the lump is and could be caused by a tumour getting bigger and inflamed.

Visible changes in your breast

Apart from puckered in nipples, there are other changes to look out for. It can be changes in the size and even the shape of one or both of your nipples. Clearly visible veins around your breast is another thing to look out for. Another symptom is rash formation around the nipple area. If you notice that there is swelling of your skin around your breast, you need to pay more attention to it because it might be a sign of something more serious.


Going in for a test

Once you clearly see the symptoms associated with breast cancer, it is best to go in for a check-up. Fortunately for us, technology has kept up with what modern women need – even our health. To help you manage expectations, here are some tests that can help diagnose if you have breast cancer or not.

Physical checkup

Your doctor would examine the lump for physical attributes such as the shape and even the hardness. Next is to look at other changes in your breast such as changes in the skin and other visible abnormalities.

Ultrasound scan

This test can detect and locate lumps that can be as small as 2mm. As a result, it detects malignant tumours at the onset. This is best for younger women when compared to mammography when density in the breast is considered.


This is basically an X-ray of your breast which can help doctors study and understand the lump in your breast.


This test requires the doctor to take a sample tissue from the lump. It enables them to study it further for composition and to even determine if it is benign or malignant.

Nipple smear

This can be done when there is discharge from your nipples which is one of the symptoms of breast cancer. This looks into the composition of the cells within that fluid to determine if it is breast cancer.


This diagnostic procedure inspects the ducts that produce the discharge. It collects cell samples to detect abnormalities in the lining.

Your knowledge of the symptoms of breast cancer is the first step to make sure that you will never be a part of the statistic. But knowledge without action is nothing. So make sure you act on what you know. It is up to you to get to know your body so you will know if something is not right. Early detection can help save your life.

Treatment can come from either surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. The important thing is that you catch it at the onset by doing self-checks and visiting your doctor regularly.

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