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Signs & symptoms

When we think of breast cancer, we often think of a lump in the breast. And that makes sense: the most common symptom of breast cancer is a painless lump in the breast or armpit. Sometimes we find these lumps. Sometimes our partner(s) may find them.

But even healthy breasts can often be lumpy. And the way breasts look and feel changes over time. So, which lumps should we worry about and which ones are probably okay? It’s hard to tell. That’s why it’s important to know your body and understand what’s normal for you.

Here is what you might want to look out for:

  • The lump is present all of the time and does not get smaller or go away.
  • The lump feels like it’s attached to the skin or chest wall and can’t be moved.
  • The lump is hard, irregular in shape and feels very different from the rest of the breast tissue.
  • The lump is tender but not painful.

Remember: most lumps aren’t cancerous. And lumps are very common.

Breast cancer can also look like:

  • swelling, redness and increased warmth
  • itching of the breast or nipple, especially itching that isn’t relieved by medications such as creams or ointments
  • changes in breast size or shape
  • dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • changes to a nipple, such as a nipple turning inwards, a rash around the nipple, or discharge from the nipple
  • crusting, ulcers or scaling on the nipple. These may be a sign of some rare breast cancers.

Often, these symptoms aren’t caused by cancer. If you have a lump or other symptoms, you’ll need testing to find out more. Visit your healthcare provider if you have any of these symptoms.

If you’re between the ages of 50 and 69 and have taken gender-affirming hormones for five years or more, don’t wait until you find a lump or have other symptoms: get screened for breast cancer by getting a mammogram (or other screening test as appropriate) every two years.

Visit for more detailed information about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.