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A project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health
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Breast cancer symptoms

Thanks to screening, breast cancer often is found before a woman has any physical symptoms. Yet a woman should know how her breasts normally look and feel so that she can report any unusual changes to her doctor. Reasons to call your doctor include:

  • A lump in or near your breast or under your arm
  • Thick or firm tissue in or near your breast or under your arm
  • A change in the size or shape of your breast
  • Nipple discharge (fluid that is not breast milk)
  • Nipple changes, such as a nipple that turns inward (inverted) into the breast
  • Changes to your breast skin, areola, or nipple, such as itching, redness, scaling, dimpling, or puckering

Keep in mind that most breast changes are not cancer. For instance, nipple discharge can be caused by birth control pills, some medicines, and infections. Or, a breast lump could be a cyst, which is a fluid-filled lump that is not cancer. Early breast cancer usually does not cause pain. Still, if you notice a change in your breast or pain, call your doctor and schedule a visit. Don’t wait until your next checkup.

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More information on breast cancer symptoms

Explore other publications and websites

  • Breast Calcifications (Copyright © Mayo Foundation) — This article discusses the causes of calcifications in the breast and the distinction between calcifications and breast cancer.
  • Breast Pain in Women (Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians) — This publication talks about information on causes, diagnosis, and treatment of breast pain.
  • Breast Self-awareness Interactive Tool (Copyright © Susan G. Komen for the Cure) — It is important to know how your breasts normally look and feel so that you can report changes to your doctor. This interactive tool shows how to perform a breast self-exam, a tool that can help you look for and feel any changes in your breasts that could be symptoms of breast cancer.
  • Nipple Problems — This publication gives information on the different problems that may cause either normal or abnormal nipple discharge.
  • Understanding Breast Changes: A Health Guide for Women — This booklet explains normal, age-related breast changes you may experience throughout your life and how they differ from changes that indicate breast cancer. It also discusses mammograms and maintaining your breast health.
  • Understanding Breast Health — This fact sheet explains what your breasts are made of and how a normal breast should look and feel. It also discusses when to see a doctor about changes in the way your breasts normally look and feel, as well as risk factors for breast cancer.

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Content last updated November 17, 2010.

Resources last updated November 17, 2010.

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A federal government website managed by the Office on Women's Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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