Early Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Time is crucial for any type of cancer. Learn the early signs and symptoms of breast cancer so you can get the care and treatment you need as soon as possible.

Schedule your Mammogram Today

We Care About Your Breast Health

One in eight women in the U.S. may be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. The good news is, there are over 3.5 million survivors of breast cancer across the U.S. One of the best ways to survive the disease is to detect it early, during stage 0 when the cancer cells are still in the place of inception and haven’t spread yet to other parts of the breast or the body.

At Saint Vincent Hospital, we offer a wide variety of breast cancer screening services, including 3D mammography, so patients in Worcester and across central Massachusetts can monitor their breast health. If you’re at an increased risk for the disease, you’re experiencing signs or symptoms of breast cancer or if you need to schedule a mammogram screening, our experienced doctors, mammographers, nurses and staff are ready to welcome you with compassionate care.

What Is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a type of cancer where breast cells grow out of control. The cancer cells usually start from a specific part of the breast, but they can also spread to other body parts. Early detection and treatment of breast cancer is key to prevent the cancer cells from spreading and causing more harm to the patient’s overall health

What Are the Early Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer?

Please see a doctor if you experience these early signs and symptoms of breast cancer:

  1. Lump in the breast or armpit – usually painless, hard and irregular in shape. However, some types of breast cancer tumors are also soft, tender to the touch and round.
  2. Abnormal nipple discharge – can be clear, yellow, brown or red.
  3. Changes in breast size or in breast shape.
  4. Dimpling or irritation of the breast skin – when the texture of the skin of your breast is like an orange peel.
  5. Nipple retraction – also known as pulling in of the nipple.
  6. Pain anywhere in the breast – that remains even after your period.
  7. Unexplained breast swelling, redness, itchiness or skin alteration – skin may also look flaky or with rash.

What Are the Risk Factors of Breast Cancer

The following factors that may increase your risk for breast cancer:

  • Age 50 and above
  • Personal history of breast cancer and/or a breast condition
  • Family history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • Dense breasts
  • Period before age 12
  • Pregnant after age 30
  • Starting menopause after age 55
  • Overweight or obese
  • Never having a full-term pregnancy
  • Not breastfeeding
  • Physical inactivity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • History of radiation therapy
  • History of hormone replacement therapy
  • Genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2
  • History of using the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES)

If you are at an increased risk for breast cancer, please speak with your doctor about a mammogram.

What Is a Mammogram?

A mammogram is an x-ray image of the breast that helps doctors detect early signs and symptoms of breast cancer, sometimes even three years before these signs and symptoms arise. Mammogram screenings are most recommended for women 50 to 74 years old, but the American College of Radiology says that women of average risk may start scheduling their annual mammogram screenings as early as age 40.

Doctors may suggest a more personalized mammogram schedule or care plan for those with increased risk.

What to Expect in a Mammogram Screening

We have experienced mammographers who will assist you at the breast screening facility of Saint Vincent Hospital, answer any questions you might have and conduct the mammogram. Ahead of your exam, our staff will gather necessary personal and health information. We encourage you to ask questions, if you have any, before the actual screening starts.

Often, you just need a few minutes to finish a mammogram. Here are some of the things you can expect on the actual screening:

  • You will be asked to undress above the waist. The mammographer will give you a gown or cover for the screening.
  • The mammographer will position one breast at a time onto the mammogram machine. Then, he/she will lower a plate onto each breast to flatten, keep it still and get a clearer X-ray image.
  • Normally, the mammographer gets two X-rays of each breast, one from above and the other one from the side.

Note: Some patients find the screening a bit uncomfortable, but compression is needed to get a clear X-ray image. There’s nothing to worry about as any discomfort often lasts for only a few minutes.

Other Breast Cancer Screening Services

Saint Vincent Hospital offers mammography and other breast services at the Saint Vincent Hospital Cancer and Wellness Center. These services include the following:

  • Breast fine needle aspiration (FNA)
  • Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Breast ultrasound
  • Digital diagnostic mammography
  • Myriad genetic testing for breast cancer
  • Stereotactic biopsies
  • Ultrasound-guided biopsies

Schedule a 3D Mammogram at Saint Vincent Hospital

A 3D mammogram, also called tomosynthesis, provides doctors a more detailed view of the breast tissue, as compared to other types of mammograms. This advanced technology also has greater accuracy and helps decrease the cases of false positives.

If you’re 40 years old and above or if you’re at an increased risk for breast cancer, you may schedule a 3D mammogram by calling 508-363-9729.

Breast Cancer Quiz

Spend 3-4 minutes taking our breast cancer quiz to learn more about your breast health.

Find a Doctor

If you need a doctor to read your mammogram results or evaluate your symptoms, we can help.