Mammary gland cancer is one of the most common oncologic diseases in the world. Pathology ranks first among female malignant tumors. Tumor is often found at woman’s reproductive age. Therefore, every woman should know the main symptoms of mammary gland cancer, to detect it on time, consult a doctor and get timely treatment. After all, in this case, oncologists manage not only the complete cure of the disease, but also to avoid the complete removal of the breast.
First symptoms of mammary gland cancer
It’s often not possible to detect the disease at the early stages because mammary gland cancer usually starts without symptoms. Besides, a woman may not give much importance to the signs and do not consult a doctor for a long time, although the tumor continues to grow.
In mammary gland cancer, the first signs in most cases can be detected only by palpation (when examining the breast). Visible changes on the skin or changes in the shape of the breast usually do not occur if the tumor is inside the duct and has a diameter of less than 5 cm.
Woman usually finds first signs of mammary gland cancer by herself. It can be:
- Enlargement of one gland in size
- Gland moves up or to the side
- Increased mobility of one breast or its fixation, limiting mobility
- Nipple entrainment, change of its shape, the appearance of rash or ulceration - possible first signs of mammary gland cancer
- Discharge from the nipple (this can be blood, pus, colostrum)
- Changes in the condition of the skin over the mammary gland - its bulge, tensed or swollen
- Local dilatation of the blood vessels over one of the areas of the breast
- Presence of wet surfaces
- Redness of the skin
Sometimes the first signs of mammary gland cancer are symptoms of intoxication and an increase in auxiliary lymph nodes. Especially, in cases when the mammary glands are of big size. Then the changes in them become visible much later.
Early symptoms of mammary gland cancer should be a reason for visiting a doctor and getting the diagnostic tests done. It is likely that the detected signs do not indicate a malignant tumor, but indicate mastopathy, inflammation of the mammary gland or benign neoplasm. But it is better to be checked and in case of cancer, not to allow its transition to the stage when the treatment becomes ineffective.
Subjective signs of mammary gland cancer in women
Signs of mammary gland cancer are considered subjective when they base on the woman’s sensations. Actually, these are complaints that a patient has while visiting a mammologist (senologist) or oncologist.
Main subjective symptoms of mammary gland cancer are:
- Drawing sensations in the mammary gland
- Itching in mammary gland cancer is observed with swelling of the skin, the appearance of rashes on the nipple
- Signs of intoxication syndrome in mammary gland cancer: temperature, nausea
- In rare cases, pain is noted
- Women can also complain of swelling of the breast, discharge from the nipples
In most cases, mammary gland cancer is manifested only in the late stages. Therefore, timely diagnosis requires an objective examination.
Does mammary gland cancer hurt?
Often patients ask the doctor if mammary gland cancer hurts. Some of them believe that the presence of pain in the mammary gland is a sign of a malignant tumor. But this is not so.
If your mammary gland hurts, it is rather that the dyshormonal processes cause this symptom than cancer. Because mammary gland cancer usually hurts usually in the late stages, when the fact of the presence of the tumor was determined by other clinical signs.
But there are forms of the disease, when the mammary gland can be painful in presence of a cancer. This is primarily edematous-infiltrative form. It is accompanied by an inflammatory process. This is associated with pain in mammary gland cancer. In other cases, the pain syndrome appears only in the late stages, when the neoplasm reaches a large size. In this case, the disintegration of the tumor begins, and there may be a hemorrhage into it.
Which symptoms of mammary gland cancer are detected objectively?
Objective symptoms of mammary gland cancer carry the greatest importance. These are those that are found by a doctor during the examination and palpating the mammary glands.
Mammary gland cancer basically doesn’t have any symptoms at the early stages in the majority of cases. Palpable tumor in the mammary gland remains the main sign of all those. Nonetheless, in the number of cases certain symptoms of mammary gland cancer can not only help to detect the malignant neoplasm itself but also to assume its histological form and location.
During the examination a doctor will pay most attention at:
- The shape of the mammary glands
- Their symmetry
- Nipples condition
- Their location
- Changes in the skin of the mammary gland
- Its bias (one of the symptoms of mammary gland cancer - fixing the skin over the tumor)
- Condition of inguinal lymph nodes
- Function of the hand on the side of the alleged lesion and the condition of the pectoral muscles
During examination, the doctor often reveals the redness of the skin of the mammary gland. It can be local or total. The palpable tumor can be fixed to the chest wall and is not always shifted. The skin above it is not only hyperemic, but often swollen.
Such symptom of mammary gland cancer as a "lemon rind" appears. Swelling and redness can spread to the skin of the arm. Sometimes ulcers appear on the mammary gland. Neoplasm can be defined as nodules or diffuse (uniform) hardening of the breast tissue during palpation.
With Paget's cancer, which affects the nipple, rashes or wet spots on the areola are found. They distinguish such clinical forms of this disease:
- Psoriasis-like - the appearance of plaques and scales
- Eczematous - wet eczema on areola or rash
- Ulcerative - characterized by the appearance of ulceration
- Tumor - a tumor-like formation is visualized in the nipple zone
External signs of mammary gland cancer appear well visible in acute forms of malignant process. They are considered the most unfavorable in the prognostic plan.
In this case, with mammary gland cancer, the cone in the mammary gland is not even always detected, since the other symptoms are more pronounced:
- Increased body temperature and general signs of intoxication
- Erysipelas of the mammary gland - redness and infiltration of the skin of the breast, its engorgement
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Bleeding from the nipple
It is easier to detect mammary gland cancer at the early stage if you regularly conduct self-examination. Women of 20 years old are already recommended to do self-diagnostics as it’s possible to detect mammary gland cancer basically in any age. Self-examination is done monthly.
Self-examination is particularly important in developing countries, where cancer screening is poorly organized. For example, in the CIS countries, on average, 80% of cases of mammary gland cancer are detected by women on their own, which is the reason for contacting a doctor. And only in 20% of cases the tumor is first detected by doctors.
Unfortunately, in most cases the patient notices changes only when the symptoms become very pronounced: there is a deformation of the breast, ulceration on the skin, discharge from the nipple, etc. If you regularly do self-examination, you can much earlier understand that you have mammary gland cancer. And early detection improves the results of treatment, in most cases allowing to completely cure the disease.
Below are the international recommendations on how to determine mammary gland cancer in yourself:
1. It is necessary to conduct self-examination one week after menstruation, which is associated with a decrease in the sensitivity of the mammary glands.
2. Be sure to pay attention to the underwear. If it is stained at the site of the projection of the nipple, this may indicate a discharge. Carefully examine the areola (pigmented circle around the nipple). Look, whether there are peeling, rashes, and ulcers on it.
3. One of the ways how to examine for mammary gland cancer is to compare two mammary glands. Normally, they must be symmetrical. Stand in front of the mirror and put your hands behind your head. Carefully inspect the mammary glands.
Pay attention to such changes:
- One breast became larger than the other (if earlier they were the same or larger the size of another breast had)
- The location of one breast has changed
- Areas with stretched or convex skin appeared
- Areas with a discoloration of the skin on one mammary gland appeared
Asymmetry of mammary glands in itself and their different relative positions are not signs of a malignant tumor. After all, it is likely that they were always different or they became such a few years ago. To detect mammary gland cancer on time monitoring of the mammary glands in the dynamics is helpful. If the asymmetry grows and has appeared recently, this is the reason for contacting the doctor.
4. The next stage is palpation of the breast. This is the best way to detect mammary gland cancer with a small tumor size. Palpation is carried out in a horizontal position. Lie on your back. The thorax in the area of the palpable breast should be slightly elevated. Therefore, a pillow should be placed under the back on the probing side. Feel the mammary glands with three or four fingers of the opposite hand. Remember the "route" of palpation. If it is the same every time, it will help on time to detect changes in the mammary gland. When completing self-examination, squeeze the nipple to check if there are any secretions, and palpate the auxiliary area for increased lymph nodes.
5. Another additional method, how to detect mammary gland cancer, is palpation in the shower. Water changes the properties of the skin, and the tumor is sometimes easier to detect. In addition, fingers slip better, which facilitates examination.
If you find signs of a tumor, consult a doctor. Do not be scared, because not every bump in the mammary glands is a cancer. Most of the pathological lesions that women identify are not cancerous. After all, there are dozens of other diseases that are found with a much greater frequency than malignant tumors.
The symptoms and signs of mammary gland cancer on stages 3-4 are associated with a significant increase in the size of the tumor, its spread into the chest wall and other nearby tissues. There may be distant metastases. They most often affect the bones, spine, spinal cord, lungs, and liver.
How mammary gland cancer look like depends on its clinical form. Often the disease is detected only in stage 3 or later. At this time, the tumor can be discerned with the unaided eye. It already spread into the chest wall, which is accompanied by a pain syndrome. Often with mammary gland cancer ulcers appear on the skin. There may be symptoms of intoxication.
With a large tumor size, progressive weight loss is often noted, as the tumor consumes a large amount of nutrients for its growth, which it "takes" from the blood.
At the late stages of mammary gland cancer wounds open on the gland’s skin and it can bleed. These wounds do not heal. The tumor can be partially located outside of the mammary gland and not inside. Pus and necrotic masses are secreted from the nipple. Bleedings appear from time to time.
Symptoms of mammary gland cancer stage 4 are also associated with the presence of foci of metastasis. Clinical signs depend on the location of metastases. If they are present in the bones painful sensations and pathological fractures are possible.
In the case of metastatic damage to the structures of the respiratory system in mammary gland cancer, fluid in the lungs causes shortness of breath and often becomes the immediate cause of death. Damage to the spinal cord with the development of sensory and motor disorders, dysfunction of the pelvic organs is possible.
Treatment of mammary gland cancer in Germany
If you have any symptoms of cancerous formation, you should contact your doctor to get treatment. But it is unequally effective in different countries.
Germany is one of the world leaders in the field of treatment of mammary gland cancer and other malignant tumors. You can use the services of German oncologists, and Booking Health will help you.
Thanks to cooperation with us, you get a number of advantages:
- Treatment will begin sooner
- You will save up to 70% of costs
- You will be treated by the best German doctors, and not by young specialists in outpatient clinics
- The cost of treatment will not increase, because all the extra costs, if they arise, will be covered by the insurance
- After the course of therapy you will get the opportunity to receive a doctor's consultation for 3 months free of charge
Leave an application on our website. Our specialist will contact you and offer several options among the best hospitals specializing in the treatment of mammary gland cancer. Having agreed on all the questions, we will arrange treatment for you - you do not have to think about anything other than your health. We will contact the administration of the clinic, help you prepare documents and issue visa, translate the documentation into German.
When you arrive to Germany, we will pick you up at the airport, take you to the clinic by car and provide an interpreter.
Choose treatment abroad and you will for sure get the best results!
Author: Dr. Nadezhda Ivanisova