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Early Signs of Breast Cancer You Must Not Ignore 

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women—no matter the nationality or ethnicity, this fact remains consistent. For you, understanding the early warning signs and engaging in proactive detection methods can significantly impact the outcome.

From changes in the breast’s appearance to unexplained pain, recognising these signs early can lead to timely intervention and can save lives.

In this comprehensive guide, we explore the common symptoms of breast cancer, the associated risk factors for women, and critical information about early screening and detection.

Understanding Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the abnormal growth of cells within the breast tissue, forming a tumour that can often be seen on a mammogram before it can be felt. In India, the incidence of breast cancer is on the rise, with it being the leading type of cancer among women.

This underscores the importance of knowledge about the disease and its early signs. By familiarizing oneself with what to look for, and engaging in regular self-exams and breast screenings, women can empower themselves to take control of their health.

Common Early Signs of Breast Cancer

Early signs of breast cancer can vary, but there are several key symptoms women should watch for:

1. Changes in Breast Appearance

Observing changes in the size, shape, or appearance of the breast may be indicative of an underlying problem. Dimpling or puckering of the skin, an inward turning nipple, or redness or scaling of the skin can all be concerning changes.

2. Lumps or Thickening in Breast Tissue

Feeling a lump or a thickening in the breast is often the first symptom of breast cancer. However, not all lumps are cancerous, but it is essential to consult a breast specialist doctor if any are found.

3. Nipple Changes

Nipple discomfort, inversion, or a secretion that is not breast milk are symptoms that should not be overlooked.

4. Skin Changes on the Breast or Nipple

Changes in the area of the breast skin can be signs of breast cancer. If the skin becomes red, scaly, or puckered, it may be due to an underlying condition, and a doctor should be consulted.

5. Unexplained Pain or Discomfort

Persistent pain or discomfort in the breast or armpit area that is not related to the menstrual cycle should be addressed with a gynecologist.

Risk Factors of Breast Cancer In Women

Several factors can increase an woman’s risk of breast cancer:

  • Genetic Mutations

Inherited genetic mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, can significantly increase the risk of developing breast cancer. These mutations can be passed down from parents and account for 5-10% of all breast cancer cases.

  • Lifestyle Factors

Obesity, lack of physical activity, and a diet high in saturated fats can contribute to a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

  • Lack of Awareness and Regular Screenings

Some women do not recognise or ignore the symptoms of breast cancer. Additionally, those who do not have regular mammograms are more likely to have undiagnosed breast cancer.

  • Ageing

The risk of breast cancer tends to increase as women get older. Most cases are diagnosed in women over the age of 50, making age a significant factor.

  • Hormonal Factors

Early menstruation (before the age of 12) and entering menopause at a later age increase the duration of estrogen exposure, raising the risk of breast cancer. Additionally, women who have never had children or had their first child after age 30 may also face a higher risk due to hormonal variations.

  • Alcohol Consumption

Regular consumption of alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed.

  • Radiation Exposure

Previous radiation treatment to the chest area, especially during childhood or young adulthood, can elevate the risk of developing breast cancer later in life.

  • Environmental Factors

Exposure to environmental toxins, such as air pollution and pesticides, has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.

  • Family History

A family history of breast cancer can increase the risk, especially if a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) has had the disease. Women with multiple relatives diagnosed with breast cancer are at an even higher risk.

The Major Cause of Breast Cancer Almost Everyone Ignores

One of the most overlooked contributors to breast cancer is lifestyle factors, specifically the role of diet and exercise. Extensive research has shown a direct correlation between obesity and the risk of developing breast cancer, particularly for postmenopausal women.

A diet high in processed foods and saturated fats, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, can lead to obesity, which is known to increase estrogen levels and inflammation, both of which have been linked to breast cancer.

Despite this significant connection, many overlook the impact of diet and physical activity on their overall risk, focusing instead on factors beyond their immediate control, such as genetics.

Taking steps to maintain a healthy weight through balanced nutrition and regular physical activity is paramount in reducing one’s risk of developing breast cancer.

How Long Can You Have Breast Cancer Without Knowing?

Breast cancer can be a particularly insidious disease because it may develop without any noticeable symptoms for a long period. In some cases, women (and men) can have breast cancer for years without being aware of it.

The duration before detection depends on several factors, including the type of breast cancer, its growth rate, and the individual’s vigilance in self-examination and undergoing regular screening tests such as mammograms.

Early breast cancers such as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) might not present any symptoms and can only be detected through screening.

More aggressive types may grow more rapidly and become symptomatic sooner. This underscores the importance of regular breast cancer screening and awareness of the changes in one’s body to ensure early detection and treatment.

What Happens If Breast Cancer Is Left Untreated?

If breast cancer is left untreated, the consequences can be severe and life-threatening. The cancer cells can multiply and spread beyond the original site in the breast to other parts of the body through a process known as metastasis.

Common areas for breast cancer metastasis include the bones, liver, lungs, and brain. This spread can lead to a significant deterioration in health, causing pain, loss of function in affected organs, and ultimately, could lead to death.

Untreated breast cancer can lead to secondary complications, such as infections in the affected area and severe psychological distress. The effectiveness of treatment diminishes as the cancer progresses, making early detection and intervention crucial for a better prognosis.

What to Do When You Suspect Breast Cancer?

If you suspect something is wrong, immediate action is crucial. Here’s what you need to do:

Consult a Breast Specialist

At the first sign of any unusual symptom, promptly make an appointment to consult a qualified breast cancer specialists. They will perform a breast examination and may order further tests.

Diagnostic Tests

If further investigation is needed, diagnostic tests such as mammograms, ultrasounds, and biopsies may be recommended to determine the nature of the symptom.

Treatment and Follow Up

If a diagnosis of breast cancer is confirmed, a comprehensive treatment plan will be suggested and followed by regular check-ups to monitor progress.

Early Detection is Key To Treat Breast Cancer

Early detection is key to improving survival odds. Attending regular screenings and performing monthly breast self-examinations are proactive measures that all women should follow.


Monthly breast self-examinations can help women become familiar with their normal breast condition, making it easier to detect any changes early.

Professional Screenings

Mammograms are highly recommended, particularly for women over the age of 40. Early and annual mammograms can catch breast cancer in its early stages when it is most treatable.

Any alteration or discomfort in your breast should not be taken lightly. Seeking medical advice as soon as possible can make a critical difference in the course of action and treatment.

Breast cancer is a complex disease, but knowledge is power. It is crucial for you to understand the signs, seek regular screenings, and act promptly upon any suspicions. By being vigilant about early detection, we can work towards reducing the impact of breast cancer on our communities.

If you are concerned about your breast health or looking for guidance, contact Kolhapur Cancer Center for compassionate and comprehensive care. Remember, your health is your greatest asset, and taking proactive steps can keep you safe and healthy for years to come.

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