You know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, right? It’s a lump, that you feel, or your doctor feels. Right? Not always. Although feeling even the littlest lump is cause for pause (and a trip to a medical professional), it’s not the only marker.
When Kylie Armstrong noticed her breast looked slightly different, she didn’t feel a tell-tale lump. Instead she saw three dimples at the bottom of her breast. These weren’t major malformations or obvious indentations. They were simple subtle dimples. Her Facebook post, and accompanying photo, show that the dimples are almost easy to completely miss. Knowing her own breasts, Armstrong was able to tell that something was not quite right.
Armstrong writes on her Facebook page, “These 3 very, very subtle DIMPLES on the bottom of this breast are a sign of BREAST CANCER. This is what MY BREAST CANCER looks like. I felt no lump. The GP felt no lump.” She goes on to say, “However, she listened to me when I said my breast looked different to usual and when I raised my arm I could see very, very feint dimples on the underside of my breast.”
The doctor sent Armstrong for a mammogram, but the cancer wasn’t obvious. The doctor sent her then for an ultrasound, but they had to look deep (near the muscle) to find what she had already discovered – cancer. Of the photo (and the barely-noticeable dimples) she says:
“I am sharing this because I hope I can make people aware that Breast Cancer is not always a detectable lump. Please go straight to your GP if you notice ANY change in your breast. It could save your life.”
If Armstrong couldn’t feel a lump, would you be able to? According to Cancer Australia, the main symptoms of breast cancer include a new lump/lumpiness, a change in the size/shape of your breast, a change in the nipple’s appearance (such as redness, a new inversion or crustiness), change in the breast’s skin (this could be redness – or, like Armstrong saw, dimpling) or a new pain that stays. Finding one of these symptoms doesn’t always equal breast cancer. There are other medical issues that can cause similar signs. That said, if you experience any of them, only your doctor (along with diagnostic testing) can confirm or rule out cancer.
Even though it’s entirely possible to have breast cancer without feeling any sort of bump, lump or mound, knowing how to do a self-exam is a first step in saving your life. Your doctor can show you the proper way to do a self-breast exam during your annual appointment. If you forget, are unsure or aren’t planning a GP trip for a while (which may be too long to wait), the Sydney Breast Cancer Foundation has created a downloadable, printable “3 Step Breast Check” shower card (click for high res version). You can also contact the Foundation to get one sent directly to you.
Or, take a look at this helpful infographic summarising the main symptoms. If in doubt, see your GP – it’s just not worth the risk!
Early detection ups the rate of survival.
Along with self-exams, you still need to visit your doctor annually and have a mammogram every two years after age 40. All women age 40 and over in Australia are entitled to a free mammogram once every two years through BreastScreen Australia. Started in 1991, BreastScreen operates in over 600 locations.