Signs of breast cancer? Talk to a REAL doctor – not a computer screen!
Ladies, I hate to tell you this, but Google (or any other search engine) is not always your friend: I bet we are all familiar with that heart-stopping moment when you find a lump (or rash or discharge or tenderness) on one of your breasts, rush to the internet, diagnose yourself with breast cancer and think that life as you know it is over!
For me, it was on a dark and stormy night (don’t laugh, it really was) and husband was in bed, so I was watching TV in the den on my own when I decided to take off my bra, which was feeling a bit tight. As I did, I brushed my left breast and squealed at the pain: the poor thing was red and hard and heavy, and seriously hot to the touch. Of course I turned to Doctor Google, and a minute later I knew I had advanced Inflammatory Breast Cancer and my chances of survival were limited! Early the next morning I was banging on my OB-GYN’s door, bellowing that it was a matter of life or death (his if he didn’t open up NOW). Long story short, after an examination and some tests, it turned out to be a clogged duct caused by some medication I was taking at the time and not IBC - though my relief was somewhat spoilt by dear old doc saying "it's mastitis, you know – just like cows get!” He really needs to work on his bedside manner.
Now, just to reassure you, my happy-ever-after story is one of many, and that diagnosis is we all dread is not as frequent as you may think. Current statistics from the American Cancer Society show that there is a 1 in 8 chance of a woman in the United States getting breast cancer; this means that there is a 7-in-8 chance that she will never get it – and these are odds I for one am happy to live with!
However, this does not mean we should ease up on being vigilant about checking our breasts for anything out of the ordinary; the VOOMA team has been doing some research (CDC Centers for Disease Prevention and Control & Prevent Breast Cancer UK) and we have compiled a checklist of the most widely mentioned symptoms you should know about:
8 possible breast cancer signs that you should see your doctor about:
New visible lump in breast or armpit
Dimpled or depressed skin (orange peel effect)
Skin irritation, flakiness or change in texture
Nipple discharge (excluding breast milk) including blood
Redness and heat
Inverting of nipple or pain in nipple area
Pain in any area of breast
Thickening, swelling or change in shape or size of breast
Please remember that these symptoms can happen with other conditions, and are not exclusive to a cancer diagnosis: lumps can be caused by individual cysts or fibrocystic breast disease (which is not actually a disease but a condition) manifested by fluid-filled cysts and areas of fibrosis (thickening of the breast tissue). As mentioned earlier, mastitis also presents with symptoms that can be mistaken for cancer – so it is vital that you see your doctor immediately something doesn’t feel right. Because the earlier you find breast cancer, the better chance you have of beating it.