Symptoms, Detection & Prevention

Women should look for these symptoms regularly to detect breast cancer:

  • Breast or armpit lump or thickening
  • Nipple scaling, retraction, thickening or discharge
  • Skin dimpling or erythema
  • Swelling
  • Ulceration
  • Breast pain

Physicians recommend self-examinations, mammograms and clinical breast examinations to aid in early detection.

The following are the American Cancer Society’s guidelines for the early detection of breast cancer:

  • Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.
  • A clinical breast exam should be part of a periodic health exam, about every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over.
  • Women should know how their breasts normally feel and report any breast change promptly to their health care providers. Breast self-exam is an option for women starting in their 20s.
  • Women at increased risk (for example, family history, genetic tendency, past breast cancer) should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of starting mammography screening earlier, having additional tests (for example, breast ultrasound or MRI) or having more frequent exams.