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Have you noticed breast changes and are now worried that this could mean you have breast cancer? First off, well done: you are a proactive patient who is observant enough to notice the changes that could indicate a serious problem. Should you indeed have breast cancer, early detection will greatly improve your prognosis. You will, however, be happy to hear that not all lumps, bumps and other changes represent a cancer symptom by any means. Despite that, bringing breast changes to the attention of your healthcare provider is always a good step. Here are the things you should be watching out for. 

Lumps In And Around The Breast

If you regularly engage in breast self-exams (as all women should), you are likely to notice any changes. Should you feel a lump in your breast, around your armpit area or a change in the size and shape of your breasts (particularly if only one breast is affected), you are right to see your healthcare provider. If you are new to breast self-exams, however, it is important to note that your breasts do change throughout the menstrual cycle, and lumpiness that presents on both sides can be normal. 

Nipple Discharge

Should you notice discharge from one nipple or both nipples despite not being pregnant or breastfeeding, that is always a cause for concern. Such discharge may be clear, slightly colored, or even bloody. Nipple discharge isn't always cancer. It can also be caused by hormonal imbalances and medications, for instance. You should still get it checked out. 

Suddenly Inverted Nipples

Some women are born with inverted nipples, that is, nipples that point inwards rather than outwards. This is normal. However, women who notice that a nipple that was not previously inverted is now pointing inwards are right to be concerned and to bring this to the attention of their healthcare provider. Nipples that suddenly become inverted can point towards breast cancer. 

Skin Changes

What should you do if the skin on your breasts or nipples suddenly becomes red, dry, or starts flaking and peeling off? Such changes can be caused by numerous factors, including an allergy to your laundry detergent, wearing clothes that are too tight or synthetic, and eczema. Skin changes can, however, also be a sign of breast cancer. Therefore, you have plenty of reason to seek medical help — particularly if your skin takes on a so-called "orange-peel appearance". Paget's Disease is a rare form of breast cancer that manifests as itchy and peeling nipples, so nipple changes should also be taken seriously. 

Breast Infections

If part of your breast is red, sore and noticeably warm to the touch, that is a sign of a breast infection. While you are very unlikely to have breast cancer, breast infections do need treatment and you should make an appointment with your doctor. 

What To Do If You Notice Breast Changes

If you notice a lump, nipple discharge, suddenly inverted nipples, skin changes, itching, soreness, changes in the size and shape of your breast, the signs of infection, or itchiness, you may be rather worried while simultaneously feeling slightly silly about seeing your healthcare provider. Your best bet is to do neither — breast changes do not always point towards breast cancer by any means, so leave those worries on the shelf. However, no change is too small to be unworthy of a doctor's visit. In the best case scenario, your doctor will simply reassure you. And should you indeed have a medical problem, the earlier you seek medical attention, the sooner you can receive treatment.

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