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Some of the most common symptoms of breast cancer also happen to be minor issues that women often face during their (perfectly normal) hormonal cycles. Breast tenderness, for instance, can be a symptom of breast cancer, but it can also occur in the days leading up to a woman’s menstrual period. Because the symptoms can be frustratingly vague, many women are hesitant to discuss their experiences with an oncologist – even when it is appropriate to do so.

Generally speaking, a visit to a medical professional is in order if symptoms such as breast pain, swelling or a change in fullness do not go away on their own after several days. Also, the following symptoms should be brought to the attention of a physician right away:

  • Discharge from a nipple
  • A sudden inversion of a nipple
  • A change in the texture of the breast skin (e.g., if the skin develops a textured appearance that looks similar to the skin of an orange)

How oncologists diagnose breast cancer symptoms

When presented with the symptoms of breast cancer, an oncologist will typically perform a physical exam, then order one or more imaging scans to determine whether there is an abnormal growth in the patient’s breast. If the imaging scan shows the presence of a tumor, a biopsy (tissue sample) is usually taken and sent to a laboratory to be processed. The results can help determine whether the growth is cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign).

Comprehensive diagnostic services at Moffitt Cancer Center

Moffitt Cancer Center’s Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Program offers a full range of diagnostic tests for individuals who are experiencing breast cancer symptoms. We have several radiologists and pathologists who specialize in diagnosing breast cancer, as well as experienced oncologists who provide individualized treatment. To request an appointment (with or without a physician’s referral), call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online.