Breast Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 02/2016

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

Women with breast cancer may experience breast changes or symptoms, but many women do not show any of these signs or symptoms when diagnosed. Many times, breast signs or symptoms can be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer.

The signs and symptoms that should be discussed with a doctor include:

  • A lump that feels like a hard knot or a thickening in the breast or under the arm. It is important to feel the same area in the other breast to make sure the change is not a part of healthy breast tissue in that area.

  • Change in the size or shape of the breast

  • Nipple discharge that occurs suddenly, is bloody, or occurs in only one breast.

  • Physical changes, such as a nipple turned inward or a sore in the nipple area

  • Skin irritation or changes, such as puckering, dimpling, scaliness, or new creases

  • Warm, red, swollen breasts with or without a rash with dimpling resembling the skin of an orange, called peau d'orange

  • Pain in the breast, particularly breast pain that doesn’t go away. Pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer, but it should be reported to a doctor.

If you are concerned about one or more symptoms or signs on this list, please talk with your doctor. You doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms is an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, supportive care, or palliative care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis and it explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Or, use the menu on the side of your screen to choose another section to continue reading this guide.