The most common symptoms of breast cancer is a new lump in the breast or a thickening in the breast.

These symptoms are usually not caused by breast cancer. However, it is always a good idea to see a doctor if you are concerned.

  • A new lump in the breast. This is the most common first sign. Sometimes the lump is seen on a screening mammogram before it can be felt.
    • The lump is present all the time and does not get smaller or go away with the menstrual cycle
    • The lump may feel like it is attached to the skin or chest wall and cannot be moved
    • The lump may feel hard, irregular in shape and very different from the rest of the breast tissue
    • The lump may be tender, but it is usually not painful
    • Pain is more often a symptom of a non-cancerous (benign) condition, but should be checked by a doctor
  • A new lump in the armpit (the armpit is also called the axilla)
    • Sometimes small, hard lumps in the armpit may be a sign that breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. Although these lumps are often painless, they may be tender.
  • Changes in breast shape or size
  • Skin changes
    • The skin of the breast may become dimpled or puckered. A thickening and dimpling of the skin is sometimes called orange peel skin, or peau d’orange.
    • Redness, swelling and increased warmth (signs that look like an infection)
  • Itching of the breast or nipple
    • Itchiness is often not relieved by ointments, creams or other medications
  • Nipple changes
    • Some people’s nipples are always pointed inward (inverted). Normal nipples that suddenly become inverted should be checked by a doctor
    • Discharge from the nipples can be caused by many conditions, most of which are non-cancerous (benign)
    • Discharge from one nipple may be a sign of breast cancer, especially if it appears without squeezing the nipple (is spontaneous) and is blood-stained
    • Crusting, ulcers or scaling on the nipple may be a sign of some rare types of breast cancer, such as Paget disease of the breast

In some breast cancer diagnoses, late signs and symptoms occur as the cancer grows larger and has already spread to other parts of the body, including other organs.

These signs and symptoms are defined as ‘advanced’ breast cancer or metastatic breast cancer.

Late signs and symptoms of advanced or metastatic breast cancer include (via Canadian Cancer Society):

  • Bone pain
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice
  • Buildup of fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Double vision
  • Muscle weakness

More resources for signs and symptoms of breast cancer

To find screening programs near you, click here.

Canadian Cancer Society An overview of common signs and symptoms of breast cancer for men.