by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Breast cancer may not always cause symptoms. In some women, it is found during a screening test. Other, less serious conditions, such as a breast cyst, can cause symptoms. It is still important to talk about them with the doctor. Finding and treating the cause early will improve chances for a cure.

Breast Changes

The most common symptom is a lump or thickening in or near the breast. The lump or thickening could also be in the underarm area. The lump if often not painful but sometimes there is pain. The lump may shrink or go away, but it does not mean the problem is gone. Any changes in the breast should be reported to the doctor.

Other changes may be:

  • A change in the shape or size of the breast
  • Nipple discharge or tenderness
  • Inverted nipple
  • Ridges or pitting of the breast—it may look like the skin of an orange
  • Changes in the skin of the breast, nipple, or areola (dark area surrounding the nipple), such as:
  • Warmth or redness
  • Swelling
  • Scaling
  • A sore or ulcer on the breast that does not heal

Later Stage Symptoms

Common symptoms include:

  • Pain or a feeling of a mass
  • Less hunger and unplanned weight loss
  • Feeling very tired
  • Belly or back pain—caused by pressure on nearby nerves
  • Problems breathing
  • Swelling in the legs
  • Bone pain


Breast cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Accessed March 25, 2022.

Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed March 25, 2022.

Breast cancer signs and symptoms. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed March 25, 2022.

Revision Information