The first sign of breast cancer isn't always a lump

The authors of a new study urge women to learn about and be on the lookout for the less well-known symptoms.

While many women book in with their GP after finding a lump in their breast, the authors of a new study are urging woman to be on the lookout for other symptoms that are less well-known.
The research, conducted by University College London, has found that one in six women (17 per cent) diagnosed with breast cancer first seek consultation after experiencing health indicators other than a breast lump.
Popular actor Chistina Applegate had a double masectomy after doctors found cancer in one breast. Her mother is also a breast cancer survivor.
In a study presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) conference in Liverpool, researchers examined the data of 2300 British women diagnosed in 2009 and 2010.
They discovered that while most women with breast cancer sought help quickly after noticing abnormalities, those who experienced ‘non-lump’ symptoms were more likely to delay seeking consultation for as long as 12 days – almost twice as long as it took for women with a lump to make an appointment.
What’s more, they found that an alarming 15 per cent of women waited three months.
“Our research shows around one in six women diagnosed with breast cancer have symptoms other than a breast lump,” says Monica Koo, lead author and researcher in cancer epidemiology at UCL.
“These women are more likely to delay going to the doctor compared to women with breast lump alone.
“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.”

What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?

Australian singer and breast cancer survivor Kylie Minogue was initially misdiagnosed but persisted in getting an accurate diagnosis for the lump found in her breast. The tumour was detected in the second investigation. Kylie urges others to be wary of blindly following doctors.
In New Zealand breast cancer is the leading type of cancer experienced by women. Eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer every day, and breast cancer is the cause of 600 deaths every year. In 70 per cent of cases, those diagnosed are aged 50 or older - but one woman under the age of 45 is diagnosed with breast cancer every day too. In 95 per cent of cases, there is no history of breast cancer in the family.
For more information, visit the Breast Cancer Foundation NZ
Early detection is vital and can save lives. If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, wish to find out more, or want to book in for a check-up, visit your local GP today.