Breast cancer symptoms

Why one should to know

  • Nearly 50% of diagnosed cases are in stage 3 and 4
  • Breast lump doesn’t cause any other problems like pain
  • Social stigma/ shy - prevents women from getting to doctor early
  • If aware breast cancer is one of the easiest cancers to treat


The symptoms mentioned below doesn’t always mean one has cancer

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  • New onset lump in breast or armpit.
  • Usually, cancer lumps are painless
  • Majority are benign
  • The skin over the breast gets thickened
  • A recent change in the shape of breast


Peau de orange

  • Looks like orange skin
  • Can happen in infection also
  • Skin over breast shows dimpling
  • More prominent when the arm is raised above
  • Reddish discharge


Nipple changes

  • Recent onset Retraction / inversion
  • Ulcer
  • Skin changes / Eczema


Do not worry

  • You have pain in your breasts and no lump
  • white / greenish discharge
  • Lumps that have been diagnosed as fibroadenoma by your cancer surgeon
  • Difference in breast/nipple size.


Self-breast examination 

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When to do it?

  • Each month on a fixed day lady examines her breast for any suspicious findings
  • Few days post periods in a menstruating lady
  • One fixed day in each month for a post menstrual lady


How to do it ?

  1. Inspection - you see
  2. Palpation - you feel



  • Stand in front of a mirror and look for any recent changes in the appearance of both breasts
  • Lift hands above the head and observe
  • Keep hands over the waist and press


Palpation - to feel

  • Usually done while /after taking a shower
  • Easier to perform
  • Circular movements inside out / outside in
  • Not to miss any parts
  • Same procedure is done in the armpit area and around the collar bone
  • Apply gentle pressure on the nipple and look for any discharge.
  • Repeat the examination lying down
  • Do the examination in various body positions
  • Report to doctor if you notice any of the symptoms
  • Do not panic, not all symptoms are cancer



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Most Common Questions

Is surgery really necessary?

Are there any alternative options?

  • Surgery is a must to cure cancer of the breast
  • Removal of cancer tissue is a major component of treatment in the cure for cancer.


Is surgery enough as a treatment for cancer breast?

  • Surgery is one part of the multidisciplinary treatment for breast cancer.


What is the surgery done for cancer breast?

In simple terms : -

  • Surgery involves removal of the cancer tissue in the breast and removal of nodes in the axilla or armpit.


I don’t have any swelling in the armpit still why do you want to do surgery there?

  • Cancer cells can travel in lymphatics into nodes stationed in the axilla/armpit.
  • This will become big enough to feel only in later stages of cancer


Types of surgery


What is mastectomy?​


  • Removal of entire breast tissue along with removal of nodes in axilla​​​​​​.



What is breast conservation surgery?

  • Involves removal of the cancer lump in breast along with surgery in axilla


Breast conservation surgery

Does breast conservation surgery affect chances of survival compared to complete removal of breast ?

  • Absolutely NO
  • The survival rate is same in both breast conservation surgery and mastectomy if the treatment is completed.


How to choose breast conservation vs mastectomy ?

Some factors considered by onco surgeon

  • Size of tumor/ size of breast
  • Number and location of tumor


Oncosurgeon thinks before suggesting BCS

  • Pregnancy
  • Scleroderma, SLE
  • History of irradiation


Patient to consider


  • Radiation therapy always follows breast conservation surgery


Patient to consider

  • Logistics
  • Availability of radiotherapy
  • Financial implications


Reconstructive options post surgery 

Why need reconstruction ?

  • Helps to improve the confidence of the patient
  • Psychologically patient feels better with intact organ


How is the recovery post surgery ?

  • Simple surgery simple recovery
  • Drain care for few days
  • Arm physiotherapy


To summarise

  • Surgery is a must for treatment of breast cancer
  • Surgery is simple and recovery is easy
  • Breast conservation surgery is equivalent to mastectomy


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