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  • Writer's pictureDr. Yelena Deshko

8 Breast Cancer Symptoms & Tips for Staying Cancer-Free

8 Symptoms of Breast Cancer

It’s important that all women learn what symptoms could be related to breast cancer so they can be on the alert. Early detection is one of the most important factors in overcoming breast cancer. The following symptoms could potentially be indicators of breast cancer.

  1. New breast mass

  2. Nipple or breast pain

  3. Redness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin

  4. Skin dimpling, irritation, or ulceration

  5. Nipple retraction or deviation

  6. Swelling of all or part of a breast

  7. Bloody or clear nipple discharge

  8. Rashes on the breast

Skin Rashes on the Breast (When to Take Action)

Skin rashes can occur due to a variety of health conditions. In some cases, however, rashes on the breast may be an early symptom of a cancerous condition. For instance, a rash may be an early symptom of inflammatory breast cancer (IBC). IBC does not usually result in lumps in the breast, in contrast to other types of skin cancer, however there are some distinctive skin changes that occur with IBC which are important to be aware of. The skin rash that accompanies IBC is often red or purple in colour, spreading over approximately one third of the breast. The breasts may also become swollen and warm. It may also resemble clusters of insect bites with accompanying itchiness, tenderness or a sensation of heaviness. In IBC, there is a characteristic pitting, thickening or dimpling of the skin of the breast resulting in a condition called peau d’orange because the skin starts to resemble an orange peel.

Inflammatory breast cancer may be confused with mastitis, which is painful swelling in the breast that usually occurs in women who are breastfeeding because of a clogged milk duct. Mastitis may also be the result of a bacterial infection which occurs when breaks in the skin allow for bacterial entry. Signs and symptoms of mastitis such as swelling, pain and redness may be easily confused with inflammatory breast cancer but mastitis is also characterized by the presence of fever, headache, and flu like symptoms which are not characteristic signs/symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer.

Another type of breast cancer which can result in a skin rash is known as Paget disease of the breast, a rare type of cancer specifically involving the skin of the nipple and the darker skin surrounding the nipple called the areola. Paget disease of the breast will also be accompanied by one or more tumours within the affected breast. It accounts for <3% of all breast cancers and is characterized by a painful, red, scaly rash on the skin of the nipple along with thickened skin. There may also be itchiness and a burning sensation as well. The rash that accompanied Paget disease of the breast may be confused with other skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis. Paget’s has many of the same symptoms as more benign skin conditions like eczema, which may lead to misdiagnosis. Experiencing itchiness, burning or bleeding with a normal looking nipple that is not red or scaly most likely means that it is not Paget’s disease of the breast. Other important differences between Paget’s disease of the breast and eczema is that Paget’s disease usually involves the nipple whereas eczema rarely affects the nipple. Paget’s disease also typically only affects one breast while eczema affects both breasts.

Why Do Breast Cancer-Related Rashes Occur?

The rash associated with inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) occurs because this cancer affects the breast dermal lymphatics. Essentially, the lymph nodes are infiltrated with disease, resulting in the characteristic inflammatory changes on the skin of the breast such as redness, swelling, warmth, etc.

In Paget’s disease of the breast, the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin) has been infiltrated by cancer cells, resulting in the skin changes described above.

When Should a Woman See Her Doctor About a Skin Rash?

It is best to seek medical attention if you notice any new changes in your breast such as a skin rash that was not there previously or any associated symptoms such as swelling, redness, warmth, itching, irritation, etc. It is always wise to get a medical opinion sooner rather than later so that the cause of the skin change can be determined, and you can get appropriate medical care in a timely fashion. It may turn out that the skin rash is not cancerous and is due to a more benign condition such as eczema or mastitis but if the skin rash is accompanied by cancerous changes, early detection and treatment are key to optimal clinical outcomes.

10 Ways Women Can Take Care of their Breast Health

Here are some evidence-based recommendations on how to reduce the risk of breast cancer:

  1. Eating a plant based diet: Consuming a plant-based diet that includes a diverse array of vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains can help with the maintenance of a healthy weight and reduce risk of breast cancer development. A healthy eating pattern is linked with lower cancer risk, and the more closely you follow a plant-based diet, the greater the cancer risk reduction.

  2. Healthy Weight: Excess body fat has been found to increase the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer. Body fat promotes inflammation, thereby contributing to the development of cancerous changes in healthy cells. Being overweight/obese is also characterized by high blood levels of insulin and other related hormones that encourage cancerous cell growth. Thus, staying as lean as possible through healthy eating and regular physical activity helps to reduce breast cancer risk.

  3. Physical Activity: Being active decreases risk for breast cancer. Vigorous activity decreases risk for pre-menopausal breast cancer. Regular physical activity also helps to regulate hormone levels. As part of your daily routine, make it a point to take regular ‘movement breaks’ especially if you are sedentary for most of your day. Walking more and sitting less is a great way to reduce cancer risk.

  4. Avoid Alcohol: consuming alcohol in any form increases breast cancer risk as it is a recognized carcinogen, meaning that it can cause cellular damage such that cancer development becomes more likely. Try to avoid or limit alcohol consumption.

  5. Breastfeeding: If you are able, breastfeeding lowers risk of breast cancer as lactation decreases lifetime exposure to menstrual cycles and estrogen, which can lower cancer risk.

  6. Chocolate: Researchers have discovered a compound in dark chocolate that may fight fast-growing cancers.

  7. Quality Sleep: Staying up late can result in greater exposure to light at night, which suppresses melatonin levels.

  8. Folate: Not eating enough folate, the naturally occurring form of folic acid, is linked with impaired ability to repair DNA.

  9. Practice Mindfulness: Some research suggests that psychological factors may be linked to increased risk for cancer

  10. Self-massage: Massage your breasts in a circular motion to increase blood flow to breast tissue.

Holistic Breast Cancer Therapies in Toronto

Luckily, research is backing up many holistic, natural therapies that fight against breast cancer. These treatments include:

  1. Iscador Mistletoe IV therapy

  2. High-dose Vitamin C IV

  3. Acupuncture

  4. Nutritional Supplementation

  5. Herbal Medicine

If you or someone you care about is battling breast cancer, we recommend you come try out our treatments.

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