If you experience a sharp pain in your breast and you also experience some tenderness, you may feel very scared. It may leave you thinking that something serious could be happening. After all, a lump in the breast is what generally causes women (and men) to visit their physician because of the fear that it might be breast cancer. In the early stages, breast cancer often does not show any symptoms. However, the earlier it is caught, the greater the chances of survival. Hence, while it is very likely that the pain and tenderness you experience, or even the lump you feel, is not cancerous, it is very important to have it checked out regardless.

The First Signs of Breast Cancer:

We are told all the time that a lump in the breast could be a sign of cancer. While this is true, it is also important to understand that most lumps are not actually cancerous. In fact 90% of breast lumps are so-called 'benign' lumps, which means they are caused by things such as hormones or damaged fat tissue, for instance. In fact, the most common causes of a benign lump are fibrocystic breast disease (known as 'lumpy breasts'), breast infections, fat necrosis (where the tissue is damaged), and fibroadenoma (a tumor that is not cancerous). In the case of fat necrosis, a biopsy will have to be taken in order to confirm that it is not a cancerous lump.

While the majority of lumps in the breasts could be caused by non-dangerous conditions, there is no going around the truth that the first signs of breast cancer tend to be lumps. Women should perform a breast exam on themselves every month. They may, during one of those checks, discover a lump. They may also experience a strange pain that doesn't go away. Some of the other common first signs of breast cancer include new lumps that remain after the completion of a menstrual cycle, a change in the nipple's shape, a pain that remains after a full menstrual cycle, discharge from one of the nipples (it can be yellow, brown, red or clear), unexplained swelling, redness, itchiness, irritation or rash on the breast itself, or a lump or swelling under the arm or around the collarbone. If a lump is found to be very hard and have irregular edges, it is likely that it is actually cancerous.

Later Signs of Breast Cancer:

Breast cancer, unfortunately, can go undetected for quite a long time. This is why it is also important to be aware of the later signs. These include enlargement of one of the breasts, the nipple turning inward or retracting, a growing lump, the surface of the breast dimpling, vaginal pain, the skin getting an orange peel look, the armpits lymph nodes enlarging, unintentional weight loss, and visible veins on the breast.

Do remember that none of these symptoms automatically means that you have breast cancer. For instance, nipple discharge can also mean that you have an infection. What is does mean, however, is that you have to see a physician to have it checked out.