Early signs of breast cancer: Do you know what to watch for?

October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (Anna Tarazevich/Pexels stock image)

Tens of thousands of women, and a smaller number of men, will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

The sooner a diagnosis is revealed, the greater the chance for a full recovery.

Many cancers are discovered through mammograms or doctor exams, but there are some things you should be aware of if you want to maximize your chances of early detection.

Learning to recognize changes in your body is crucial, doctors say.

Here are some specific things to watch for, according to information from Cancer Treatment Centers of America and the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

1. Any lump or thick area around the breast or near the underarm.

If you notice this, it should warrant an instant call to your doctor.

Not all lumps are malignant, of course, but getting a clean bill of health from your doctor can take away any speculation and dread on your part.

It’s always best to have any unusual lump evaluated professionally.

2. Any changes in the shape of the breast.

If you’ve been examining your breasts throughout your life, you will know if one is larger than it used to be or if the shape is distorted.

3. Breast tenderness.

Some tenderness right before or during the monthly period can be a common issue for many women.

But, if you feel your breast is unusually tender or if you see any discharge and you’re not nursing a baby, you will want to have this examined.

4. Any distortion of the nipple, such as puckering or inversion.

You know your breasts better than anyone else. If you see changes around the nipple area, you likely have cause for concern.

Again, it may be nothing, but wouldn’t it be great to hear that from the doctor?

5. Puckering and pitting, or odd ridges along the side of the breast.

This too could indicate something is amiss.

A persistent itch should also alert you.

6. Any change in the breast area.

Again, get an exam. A healthy breast should not feel warm or flushed. Swelling or discoloration is not a healthy breast condition. Pain, other than monthly tenderness, is not a normal condition. Don’t dismiss any of these conditions, minor as they may seem.

It’s important to remember that most lumps, bumps, tenderness and other anomalies are not going to result in a cancer diagnosis. But, it’s also important to remember that it’s best left up to a medical professional to decide just what, if anything, is going on with your breast.

Knowing you have nothing to worry about is far better than just hoping everything is OK.

Not all breast cancers are discovered by finding a lump or experiencing pain. For this reason, regular doctor exams should always be encouraged. Check with your doctor to determine the right schedule for you when it comes to mammograms or other tests. Your particular health profile and family history will weigh heavily in determining just how vigilant you will need to be when it comes to breast health.

October is all about National Breast Cancer Awareness. Hungry Howie’s works throughout the month to support the National Breast Cancer Foundation. As of 2019, more than $3 million had been donated to the foundation, according to Hungry Howie’s. The money goes toward early detection efforts, education and support services. NBCF provides free mammograms for women in the U.S. through its network of hospitals.

The pizza company even changes its boxes, and has for 11 years in a row, to include the NBCF logo. Hungry Howie’s campaign, Love, Hope & Pizza, originated as a way to show love for the communities it serves, and the people affected.

An estimated 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime while 1 in 1,000 men will be affected by the disease. NBCF has been helping those with breast cancer since 1991.