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Early Signs of Breast Cancer to Watch Out For

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Oct 15, 2021

Early Signs of Breast Cancer to Watch Out For

Cancer, according to the Department of Health, is one of the four noncontagious epidemics in our country. It is considered an epidemic because it affects a lot of people. In the DOH’s website, they mentioned that 4 Filipinos die every hour because of cancer. That totals 96 deaths per day.

One of the most common types of cancer, especially among women, is breast cancer. In the 2018 data of the Global Cancer Observatory, breast cancer had the third highest mortality rate, following lung and liver cancer in the Philippines. In other words, breast cancer is the third most deadly cancer in our country; experts say it’s also the deadliest cancer among women. The most worrying, however, is that it also has the highest incidence rate. This means that breast cancer has the most number of new cases.

The World Health Organization firmly states that early detection of breast cancer is important because it increases the chances of successful treatment.

There are two components of early detection. One is education to promote early diagnosis. This includes watching out for the early signs of breast cancer. The second is screening for breast cancer.

In this article, we will discuss the early signs of breast cancer.

The Early Signs of Breast Cancer

How do I know if I have breast cancer? The first thing you should check for is lumps. Lumps or masses in the breast are one of the early signs of breast cancer.

Breast cancer lumps are typically irregularly shaped, hard, and immobile. Additionally, they are mostly painless.

As for the location of breast cancer lumps, they are also commonly found under the arm. This is because when cancer cells spread outside of the breast, they may also affect lymph nodes. For this reason, doctors consider a change in the lymph nodes as one of the early signs of breast cancer.

In the end, only a doctor can determine the nature of a breast lump. But you can do a breast self-examination to check if you have them. But remember that self-examination is no longer regarded as a breast cancer diagnostic tool.

Aside from clinical examination, a definite test is a biopsy in which tissue samples are taken from these lumps.

Other than lumps, there are other early signs of breast cancer that you can check. They are:


One of the early signs of breast cancer is redness of the skin. Of course, there are other reasons why the skin may become red. If you find no reason for the change in color, it is best to consult your doctor.

Thick or Scaly Skin

The skin on the breast is supposedly smooth, unless you have a congenital marking.

When a part of your breast or the entire breast becomes thick or scaly, you may be experiencing one of the early signs of breast cancer.

Thickening may be associated with edema or swelling. This happens because the cancer may be blocking the normal pathway of lymph or body fluids in your breast

Irritation or Itchiness

Aside from just observing how your breasts look, you also want to “feel” if there are any changes. One of the early signs of breast cancer is when your breast becomes itchy or irritated.

However, before getting worried, determine first if there is a reason for the irritation. If there is none, cross-check it with the other symptoms.


Skin “dimpling” is when you see that your breast skin retracts or gets pulled in. It happens because the cancer pulls on the suspensory ligaments that support the breast.

Retracting Nipples

Retracting nipples happen when one or both of your nipples are “turned or pulled in.” These are also called inverted nipples. Most of the time, it is a normal, common condition. This is one of the reasons why some mothers have a hard time breastfeeding. However, if this is a new and persistent symptom for you, consult a doctor.

Abnormal Discharge

Nipples only secrete breast milk. Any abnormal discharge is one of the early signs of breast cancer. Go to the hospital if there is blood.


If you bump up against something hard, feeling breast pain is normal. However, if you feel pain in your breast or nipples without explanation, consult your doctor. Experiencing this may mean that you have one of the early signs of breast cancer.


Swelling may be hard to determine at first, since the breasts do not look similar. However, if you look at the mirror and see that a part of or the entire breast is swollen, immediately seek medical help. This is also called “peau d’orange” because the skin starts looking like the peel of an orange.

Seeking medical advice is especially true if you cannot find a good reason as to why the swelling occurred. Experts say that swelling may also be present even when you cannot feel any lumps.

Change of Breasts in Shape and Size

Did your breast become bigger? Did one or both of them change in shape? If yes, there is a chance that you are experiencing one of the early signs of breast cancer.


Your breast should be at the same temperature as the rest of the body. When your breast or part of it becomes warm, it may be a cause of concern.

If you develop lumps or any of the aforementioned early signs of breast cancer, do not panic. They may be warning signs, but nothing is definite until you are screened.

It is possible that you may have another health condition that is causing the symptoms. Only a doctor’s diagnosis can confirm breast cancer.

Key Takeaways

Be more informed and learn to identify the early signs of breast cancer. Perform self-breast examinations regularly and observe the appearance and “feel” of your breast. Are there changes? Could there be a valid explanation for those changes? Knowing all these things will help ease your worries. Consult your doctor for any other concerns.

Learn more about Breast Cancer here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

John Paul Abrina, MD

Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Oct 15, 2021

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