In order to find breast cancer as early as possible and receive treatment quickly after early diagnosis, women need to perform monthly self-exams, have physical exams conducted every year, and begin mammogram screening at age 40. These steps could go a long way toward preventing death from breast cancer.

When a woman performs a self-exam or their doctor does a check-up, a lump is usually the reason for finding a potential tumor. However, new research presented at the 2016 National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer conference in England found that 17 percent of women or one out of six women diagnosed with breast cancer did not have a lump as their first symptom, ScienceDaily reported.

Some other potential symptoms that breast cancer brings include pain, skin abnormalities, nipple problems, misshapen breasts and/or nipples, and an inflamed breast. The researchers from University College London looked at breast cancer results from more than 2,300 women diagnosed in 2009 and 2010.

The most important finding from the research may be that women who have the disease but no lump may not worry as much about their symptoms and have actually delayed going to the doctor when compared to women who found a lump in their breast.

“This research shows that, all too often, women are delaying going to their doctor with symptoms of breast cancer,” Dr. Karen Kennedy, Director of the National Cancer Research Institute, told ScienceDaily. “This could be because people are simply unaware that breast cancer can present in many different ways, not just through the presence of a lump. With a disease like breast cancer, it’s essential to be diagnosed as early as possible so that a treatment plan can be developed and started. Awareness campaigns need to raise awareness of all of the potential symptoms of breast cancer so that people know how to spot the signs and when to go to a doctor.”

Interestingly, the study also shows that women with multiple symptoms including a lump also delayed going to see their doctor. In fact, women who had armpit pain, breast infection or inflammation, a swollen arm, or nipple problems had a higher likelihood of waiting three or more months before seeing a physician.

Tens of thousands of women die from breast cancer in the United States every year. In order to prevent deaths from breast cancer, it is key for women to perform monthly self-exams and see their doctors if any problems are found. This includes a wide variety of issues that go beyond finding a lump such as nipple discharge, swelling, or breast pain.

“Our research shows around one in six women diagnosed with breast cancer have symptoms other than a breast lump. These women are more likely to delay going to the doctor compared to women with breast lump alone,”¬†Monica Koo, presenting author based at UCL, told the news source.

“It’s crucial that women are aware that a lump is not the only symptom of breast cancer. If they are worried about any breast symptoms, the best thing to do is to get it checked by a doctor as soon as possible. Diagnosing cancer earlier really is key in order to increase the chances of survival. Symptom awareness campaigns such as the Be Clear on Cancer campaign should continue to emphasize breast symptoms other than breast lump.”

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