5 Breast Cancer Symptoms That Aren't Lumps

Overwhelmed by the thought of breast cancer? You’re not alone. For many women just hearing the term is enough to send them straight to stress city. And for good reason. Between all of the statistics, information and news, most women are left with more questions than answers.


Do antiperspirants really increase your risk? What about dairy products? Are lumps the only noticeable symptom? If you’ve ever asked questions like these, you’re definitely not the only one. So let’s clear up some of the confusion.

While lumps and other, noticeable breast changes may be the most common and most well-known symptoms, there are other subtle symptoms that don’t involve your breasts per se. Instead, you may notice changes in unexpected places throughout your body. But keep in mind, breast cancer isn’t the only condition—or the most common condition—that may be behind these changes:

   1. Your armpits: A bump in your armpit may seem harmless enough. It’s probably just irritation from your deodorant or from shaving, right? Actually, it may be an enlarged lymph node, which could be a rare sign of breast cancer.

   2. Your back: Persistent, nagging pain anywhere in your body can be cause for concern—back pain is no different. Because breast cancer can spread and cause discomfort along your spine, it may be the cause of chronic back pain.

   3. Your waist: When you’re actively trying to exercise and eat healthy, weight loss may be a welcomed result. But when unexplained weight lost and decreased appetite are unexpected, this could indicate a systemic change, like breast cancer.

   4. Your chest: Chest pain—regardless of the underlying cause—is always something to take note of. As one of the most likely places for advanced breast cancer to spread, your lungs may show symptoms like chest pain and/or shortness of breath.

   5. Your skin: It isn’t just skin cancer that can cause changes to your skin. In fact, inflammatory breast cancer, one of the most aggressive forms, can cause red spots, bruises, even freckles. 

Treating the whole person.

Because cancer isn’t just physical condition—it’s mental, emotional and social—cancer care shouldn’t just treat the physical symptoms. At GMC’s Center for Cancer Care, every patient will receive the multi-faceted care they need to make every step of the cancer-healing journey a success.

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