Breast Cancer

October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Here Are the Early Signs to Watch For

One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation

October marks Breast Cancer Awareness month, an annual worldwide campaign to promote regular screening and early detection of breast cancer.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. It is the most common cancer among American women.

In the U.S., more than 260,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and about 42,000 will die from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, through early detection, the 5-year relative survival rate for localized cancer that hasn't spread is 90%, according to the American Cancer Society.

The majority of deaths occur in low- and middle-income families, where most women who develop breast cancer are often diagnosed in late stages of the disease. This is mostly due to a lack of awareness on early detection and potential barriers to access certain health services.

Many breast cancer symptoms are invisible and hard to notice without a professional screening, but professionals recommend a monthly breast self-exam to identify any changes or lumps.

According to Johns Hopkins Medical Center, 40% of diagnosed breast cancers are first detected by women who feel a lump.

Here's what to know about the signs and symptoms:

What are the symptoms and signs of breast

  • A change in how the breast or nipple feels
  • A change in the breast or nipple appearance
  • Any type of nipple discharge—particularly clear discharge or bloody discharge
  • Skin irritation, such as redness, thickening or dimpling of the skin
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit

Every person should know the symptoms and signs of breast cancer, and any time an abnormality is discovered, it should be looked at by a healthcare professional.

The American Cancer Society’s recommendations for early detection of breast cancer for women of average risk include:

  • Ages 40-44: Women should have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.
  • Ages 45-54: Women should get a mammogram every year.
  • Women age 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year or choose to continue annual mammograms.

All women should understand what to expect when getting a mammogram for breast cancer screening – what the test can and cannot do.

What are the early signs of metastatic breast cancer?

Metastatic breast cancer (also called stage IV) is breast cancer that has spread to another part of the body, most commonly the liver, brain, bones or lungs.

  • According to, the most common symptom of breast cancer that has spread to the bone is a sudden, noticeable new pain. Breast cancer can spread to any bone, but most often spreads to the ribs, spine, pelvis or the long bones in the arms and legs.
  • When breast cancer moves into the lung, it often doesn’t cause many symptoms. If a lung metastasis does cause noticeable symptoms, it may include pain or discomfort in the lung, shortness of breath, and a persistent cough.
  • Symptoms of breast cancer that has spread to the brain can include headache, changes in speech or vision, memory problems, and others.
  • When breast cancer spreads to the liver, it often doesn’t cause many noticeable symptoms. If a liver metastasis does cause symptoms, it can include pain or discomfort in the mid-section, fatigue, weight loss or poor appetite, and fever.

There are a wide variety of treatment options for metastatic breast cancer, and new medicines are being developed every day.

How can I lower my risk of developing breast cancer?

Although there is no sure way to fully prevent breast cancer, the National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends that women do these things to lower the risk:

  • Staying physically active: Exercising regularly has been linked with lowering breast cancer risk.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Weight gain as an adult is linked with a higher risk of developing breast cancer after menopause.
  • Do not smoke: Smoking has shown a higher risk of breast cancer in younger, premenopausal women.
  • Eating fruits and vegetables: Many studies have suggested that a diet high in vegetables and fruit, and low in red meat, can lower the risk of breast cancer.
  • Limiting alcohol intake: Alcohol has been linked with an increased risk, so choose not to drink alcohol or drink in moderation.

For more information on breast cancer early detection, risk factors, treatment, recovery or free patient support, call the American Cancer Society anytime at 800-227-2345 or visit

And for more information on Breast Cancer Awareness Month, please visit

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