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What are the first signs of breast cancer?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on Oct 17, 2021.

Official answer


In the very early stages of breast cancer, there may be no signs or symptoms. That’s because a lump in the breast must be about 1/3 to ½ an inch (1 centimeter or about the size of a pea) before a person can feel it; although this does depend on where the lump arises in the breast, how big the breast is, and how deep the lesion is. Although you may not be able to feel a lump, screening mammography may detect one. But as cancer grows, changes in the breast or armpit area may be more obvious, and you should get the following signs and symptoms checked by a doctor:

  • Any change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
  • Nipple retraction
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
  • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin.
  • New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit)
  • Pain in any area of the breast
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or around the collarbone.

  • Seven warning signs of breast cancer. Bay imaging consultants.
  • Early Signs of Breast Cancer July 09, 2020.

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