A breast lump that persists after a period or at anytime in a woman who has stopped menstruating should be assessed immediately. Majority of the lumps detected in the breast are not cancerous. Generally cancerous lumps are hard and painless but this is not by any means the rule. A lump associated with other features of breast cancer listed below make it more likely to be malignant.
Dimpling of the skin :
Dimpling of the skin especially in the presence of a lump is regarded as highly suspicious of cancer. Cancer should be excluded by examination by a specialist and the appropriate investigations (i.e. ultrasound scan or mammogram and a scan).
Ulceration of the skin :
In the presence of a lump this is very characteristic of a locally advanced cancer and a urgent specialist opinion is recommended
Blood stained nipple discharge :
This can occasionally be due to a cancer within the milk ducts but more commonly it is due to dilated milk ducts or noncancerous wart like growths within the milk duct.
Redness of the skin of the breast :
Redness of the skin of the breast is most commonly due to infection. If antibiotics do not bring about a resolution, then one should be suspicious of inflammatory breast cancer which is an aggressive form of breast cancer. Usually with infection the breast is very tender and not so with inflammatory breast cancer.
Lump in the armpit :
The lymph glands are located in the armpit. The breast also has a tail of tissue that ends in the armpit where the lymph glands are located. Any lump in this region should be regarded as suspicious and consultation with a specialist breast surgeon sought.
Should you notice any of the above please seek an urgent referral to a breast specialist. Generally this will be a surgeon who has been specially trained in breast surgery.