(NEXSTAR) — Most people know that a lump could be a tell-tale sign of breast cancer, but other common symptoms may fly under the radar. That’s according to a recent consumer survey commissioned by the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC).
The survey found that while 93% of adults questioned identified a lump as a potential sign of breast cancer, less than half recognized several other symptoms of the disease. Over 1,000 people were polled online or via phone from Sept. 22-24 for the study.
Ohio State experts said the results are concerning because most breast cancers do not present with a lump you can detect by touch. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously noted that people may experience different symptoms, or none at all, as “no breast is typical.”
“We want people to feel empowered about their bodies and know what is normal for them. Many breast changes are the result of aging and childbirth; however, breast cancer can present in a number of ways,” Ashley Pariser, a breast medical oncologist and director of breast cancer survivorship services at OSUCCC, said in an article published Monday on the university’s site.
“It is important that people feel safe to address these concerns in a timely way with their doctor,” she continued. “We have made great strides in detecting breast cancers in far earlier, more treatable stages.”
Five lesser-known symptoms of breast cancer
- Retracted, inverted, or downward-pointing nipple: The nipple can become inverted as a tumor grows within the breast and tugs part of the tissue toward it. Only 31% of people surveyed recognized this as a symptom requiring medical attention.
- Breast puckering: This condition may look like an indentation or dimple when you lift your arms. It can occur as a tumor pulls on healthy breast tissue and distorts the appearance of the skin. Only 39% recognized this as a symptom requiring medical attention.
- Loss of feeling in part of the breast: Only 41% recognized numbness as a symptom requiring medical attention.
- Pitting or thickening of the skin of the breast: This can make your skin look or feel like an orange. It may also be a symptom of inflammatory breast cancer, which is rare and aggressive. Only 45% recognized numbness as a symptom requiring medical attention.
- Nipple discharge: Spontaneous nipple discharge that is clear or bloody could be a breast cancer warning sign, yet only 51% of survey respondents recognized it as a symptom requiring medical attention.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the U.S., behind skin cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. The organization estimates nearly 300,000 new cases of invasive cancer will be diagnosed in women in 2023.
According to the survey, 75% of women respondents don’t believe they’ll get breast cancer. A third said they’re also confused about screening recommendations.
“The best way for us to find breast cancer early is for women to present as soon as they notice a change, ideally even before they see a change. So that’s why we recommend screening mammograms for those who qualify if we want to find breast cancer early,” said Pariser.
Women at average risk of breast cancer should begin screening at age 40, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends.
When it came to men, about 91% polled said they don’t believe they’ll get breast cancer. The American Cancer Society said their lifetime risk of developing the disease is about 1 in 833.
“Although the disease is less common in men, 1% of breast cancers occur in men,” Pariser explained. “These cancers typically present as nipple changes, so it is also important that men feel empowered to seek medical attention for concerning symptoms, especially if they have a strong family history of breast cancer.”