1) Thick mass. These masses can be in or near the breast, or in the armpit. If they are persistent throughout your menstrual cycle, or for more than a week or two, WebMD recommends seeing your doctor.
2) Indentation. This can be an indentation like a puckering of the skin as described below, but could also just be a flattened part of your breast.
3) Skin Erosion. Look out for any crustiness or scaliness, particularly around the nipple.
4) Redness or heat. This can come from the nipple itself or the skin anywhere on your breast.
5) New fluid. WebMD explains that this could be clear, brown or bloodstained. Milky discharge from both breasts (even if not lactating) is less likely to be related to cancer.
6) Dimpling. Dimpling of the skin on the breast can be a sign of breast cancer, but it can also be a sign of non-cancerous issues. Dimpling is also described as puckering, and is a subtle sign that can often be missed.
7) Bumps. Not all lumps are hidden – you might notice visible changes in the surface of your breast.
8) Growing veins. Look out for any changes in the veins on your breasts. If you have pale skin it’s normal for veins to be visible, but take note if they become enlarged.
9) Retracted nipples. Remember that this is about looking for change, so if you’ve always had inverted nipples then you have nothing to worry about (everyone’s breasts are different!). However, if your nipples begin to retract or invert and they weren’t before, then this can be a symptom of breast cancer.
10) Change in shape or size. It is normal for breasts to swell at different times of your menstrual cycle, or for other hormonal reasons. However, you should take note of any significant changes. It is also normal to have two differently sized breasts, but only if this has always been the case.
11) Orange peel skin. This is when the skin of your breast develops ridges or appears pitted. It is different than dimpling in that the skin is noticeably rough and pitted.
12) Invisible lump. Worldwide Breast Cancer explains that a lump is the most common sign of breast cancer, but not all lumps are bad. Soft, moveable lumps that feel like soft peas or beans may be okay; these may be your milk lobes or lymph nodes. However, lumps that feel hard and immovable, like a lemon seed, may be cancerous. Lumps can be any size and shape, anywhere from your armpit, up to your collarbone and down to the bottom of your rib cage. A good rule of thumb is to speak to your doctor about any noticeable changes in your breasts, whether they be soft or hard lumps.
Let’s help to reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer by learning the signs and detecting it early. You can perform a simple breast exam yourself – try making it a monthly habit before you step into the shower, perhaps – or ask your partner or a doctor to do it. Learn the landscape of your breasts. It’s normal to have different textures, shapes, and sizes, but once you know your own breasts well, you’ll be better placed to identify changes.