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Early Signs of Breast Cancer which Are Easy to Miss

Each year, around 260,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Their outlook varies. Some breast cancer is more aggressive than others, but any patient would benefit from early detection. When breast cancer is diagnosed early, patients have more treatment options. They also have a statistically better chance of surviving the disease.

The most prominent breast cancer symptoms will differ from patient to patient. Below, we highlight some of the most common early signs of breast cancer. If you notice any of them, you should contact your doctor to discuss additional diagnostic tests, like imaging scans to determine the presence of a tumor. If a doctor fails to follow up, then you might have a lawsuit for medical malpractice. Call a delayed cancer diagnosis lawyer for more information.

What are early signs of breast cancer?

You should visit a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms.


Most women know they should check their breasts for lumps. A firm lump under your arm or anywhere on the breast is a sign that you have a tumor. Of course, it might be benign. But that’s true of any early symptom. If you notice you have a lump, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, some doctors will dismiss lumps, believing they are simply non-cancerous cysts. Some young women have fibrocystic breast change due to hormonal changes. A doctor should perform other tests, however, rather than simply claim the lump is benign.

Change in the Shape of Your Breast

A sudden change in shape is another sign of breast cancer. We are not talking about breasts that sag as we age. Instead, a sudden, unexplained change in shape could be a sign that you have a tumor.

Look for dimpling, swelling, or thickening of the breast. Even if you don’t notice any lump, these other changes in shape or contour are issues that should be investigated.

Nipple Changes

Changes to nipples are also signs of breast cancer:

  • Dimples on your nipples
  • Crusting
  • Scaly skin
  • Discharge
  • Blood in discharge
  • Inflammation
  • Pulling to a side
  • Change in direction

Many changes are benign or easily explained by certain changes in your body. If you are pregnant, then you can experience milk dripping out of your nipples. However, a nipple change is a red flag for breast cancer when you can’t obviously tie it to pregnancy or breastfeeding. Head to the doctor’s office to have an examination.

Breast Pain

Some cancers will cause pain in the breast. This is not a common sign, but it does occur, especially with rare, aggressive cancers. It’s a good idea to speak with a doctor, who can order a mammogram to rule out cancer as a potential cause of the pain.

Skin Changes

Sometimes, the earliest warning signs for breast cancer show up in the skin. You might experience:

  • Discoloration
  • Swelling
  • Thickening

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare but aggressive cancer. An early sign is skin discoloration or changes in texture. Your skin might appear reddish, pink, or purple. Bring any discoloration or swelling to the attention of your doctor.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

A common sign of breast cancer is a swollen lymph node on the chest wall or in the armpit. Roughly 25% of breast cancers will spread to the lymph nodes, so this is a definite red flag you should not dismiss.

How Your Doctor Should Respond

Doctors owe their patients a duty of care, which includes making a proper diagnosis. When a patient reports any of the above symptoms—or if the doctor notices them during an exam—then he or she should order necessary follow-up procedures. For example, an imaging test like a mammogram is helpful at ruling out cancer.

Most of the above symptoms have benign causes. They are not always signs of breast cancer. But a careful doctor should rule out cancer as a possibility.

Unfortunately, some doctors are struggling with:

  • Burnout
  • Too many patients
  • Overwork
  • Chemical dependency
  • Poor record keeping

Consequently, they overlook patients or never order tests. A patient becomes sicker when their cancer is not diagnosed in a timely manner.

Of course, a doctor is not always to blame for a missed diagnosis. He or she might have ordered a test, but the results are delayed or lost. A radiologist could also send the wrong patient’s mammogram to a doctor.

Why Timely Diagnosis Matters

Breast cancer is often treatable when caught early. Your prognosis will depend on many factors, including the type of cancer, your age, and your overall health. Statistics show that it’s better to diagnose cancer too soon rather than too late.

A missed diagnosis can result in:

  • More invasive and expensive medical care. You might need multiple rounds of surgery or grueling rehabilitation.
  • More bodily pain. Both cancer and chemotherapy can leave a person in considerable pain.
  • More emotional distress and mental anguish.  Many patients are wracked with fears after a delayed cancer diagnosis. You might struggle with depression or anxiety.
  • More missed days of work. Cancer patients lose out on weeks and months of income because they need more intense medical care after cancer spreads.

Many patients struggle with huge medical bills and a dramatic drop in their quality of life due to a delayed cancer diagnosis. Please contact our law firm to discuss what happened. We can review your medical records and listen to your story.

Proving a delayed cancer diagnosis is challenging. Medical providers rarely rush out to admit they failed to order a mammogram even after learning you felt breast pain. Nonetheless, we can piece together what happened using medical records and your own testimony.

Our Consultations Are Free

Powers & Santola, LLP, has represented dozens of patients injured by a delayed cancer diagnosis. We understand how frustrating it is to receive substandard care which compromises your health and could lead to death. Let us review the facts and try to negotiate a settlement for your losses. Call our law firm today to schedule a time to meet.

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