Over a year ago, my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer and she had to undergo mastectomy (total removal of a breast) as the cancer spread because of ignoring the early symptoms. India has third highest cases of breast cancer and every year nearly 1.4 million cases go undiagnosed. Self checking for breast cancer symptoms is essential and you should do it once a month. Here are five warning signs of breast cancer:

  1. Breast pain: Often times pain can be caused during periods or other changes in the breasts that are normal. But a tumor growing can cause discomfort. Very often, breast cancer lump might be painless but hard. A hard lump or a knot that feels thicker than the rest of the breast should be examined immediately.
  1. Change in shape or size: Breasts look and feel different throughout a woman’s life and one breast can be different from the other in shape or size, which is normal. A tumor growing can be painless but there will be a change in shape or size. If you check yourself regularly you can find out if it is something unusual.
  1. Itchy breasts: This symptom is often misunderstood and very often women end up visiting dermatologists considering it as a skin condition and symptoms get worse. Get yourself checked if you feel a change in the texture of the skin.
  1. Change in nipples: The nipple can be extra sensitive or inverted. Most common location for a tumor is beneath the nipple. The skin of the nipple can be inflamed. If there is a bloody, watery or a milky discharge, discuss this with the doctor.
  1. Swelling in the armpit: If a lump in your armpits feels sore check it carefully with your fingers. Sometimes, cold and flu can cause swelling too. But if the lump is unflagging, see your doctor.

Women above the age of forty are advised to get mammography done annually. The best way to fight breast cancer is early detection, so it is imperative to check yourself monthly by self-examination to spot the symptoms immediately.