October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While the recommendations for breast cancer screenings change slightly every few years, one recommendation remains the same for men and women of all ages: Know your breasts! “Breast self-awareness” is the newest buzzword you will hear from key organizations such as the American Cancer Society. Both men and women should routinely inspect their breasts, since subtle changes in either the appearance or feel may be the first indication that something is awry. Visual inspection is a critical component of this examination, yet it is often forgotten. If you do notice something amiss, schedule a visit with one of our dermatologists in Marco Island and Naples.
In fact, there are two rare types of breast cancer in which the first symptom is often a change in the skin rather than the classic breast “lump.” These skin changes include a change in color, texture, or even altered sensation such as itching, pain, burning, or tingling.
Paget’s disease of the breast is a rare form of breast cancer in which the initial change you may notice is a rash on the breast and/or nipple. The rash is generally seen on one breast—not both—and usually begins on or near the nipple. It may be dry, flakey, itchy, and/or crusty. Patients often attempt to treat the rash, assuming they simply have a stubborn irritation. In fact, Paget’s disease often mimics benign skin rashes, such as eczema.
Inflammatory breast cancer is the second type of breast cancer that can present with visible symptoms on the skin. The skin overlying the breast may be red, hot, or sore. The texture of the skin may also feel thicker or bumpy, mimicking the texture of an orange peel. Change in nipple shape, such as inversion of the nipple, is also a red flag.
Of course, none of these symptoms alone is diagnostic for breast cancer, but a healthcare provider should promptly evaluate them. Please do not ignore subtle changes in the appearance or feel of your breasts!