This change was due to the finding that regular self-breast exams lead to anxiety and unnecessary testing that can sometimes be invasive.
Although regular self-breast exams are no longer recommended, women should still be aware of how their breasts look normally. This means that if symptoms appear, they will notice them.
In this article, we will look at dimpling of breast tissue, a common symptom of breast cancer that people should be aware of.
Regular self-breast exams may cause anxiety but it is recommended that women are familiar with their breasts so that any changes can be easily recognized.
Despite the new recommendations, a woman should be familiar with her breasts. That way, she can spot new changes in texture and appearance. It is also important to recognize signs of breast cancer or other breast conditions, which may include:
- Thickening of breast tissue or tissue near the underarm
- A lump in the breast
- Change in size or shape of the breast
- Discharge from the nipple, especially bleeding
- Changes in skin around the breast, nipple, or areola, which may appear red, scaly, or swollen
- A nipple that has inverted suddenly
- Dimpling or puckering of the skin on the breast
The appearance of any of these symptoms warrants making an appointment with a doctor for further examination.
What is dimpling?
Dimpling of the breast tissue can be a sign of a serious form of cancer. Unfortunately, this sign is not well understood by most women.
Also known as peau d'orange, dimpling of the breast causes the skin to look like the pitting and uneven skin of an orange. Sometimes, the skin can also be red and inflamed.
Dimpling that is found in breast cancer tends to occur in only one breast. If a woman has dimpling in both breasts, it is not likely to be caused by breast cancer.
Dimpling is a common sign of inflammatory breast cancer. This is a rare form of stage III or stage IV breast cancer where there is no distinct mass or tumor. Instead, cancer cells block the lymphatic drainage in the breast tissue.
This form of breast cancer is most commonly found in women under the age of 60. It tends to develop in the milk ducts within the breast.
Early symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer may include itching and a rash or small, irritated bump, similar to a bug bite.
Eventually, the symptoms progress and can include:
- Pain or a burning sensation
- Dimpling of the skin
Nipple changes, such as inversion may also be observed. People may or may not feel a lump in the breast.
Dimpling can also be a symptom of fat necrosis, a condition where the fatty tissue in the breast dies. Though this condition is not related to breast cancer, it can also cause a lump and dimpling. Dimpling is especially likely if the fat necrosis occurs near the surface of the breast.
The only way to determine if dimpling is caused by breast cancer or fat necrosis is by having an examination with a doctor and a breast biopsy.
How to find dimpling of the skin
The easiest way to find dimpling is for a woman to look at her breasts. While regular breast self-exams are no longer recommended, a woman should be aware of how her breasts normally look and feel.
Looking for dimpling is best done when getting dressed or changing clothes and is very simple. To screen for dimpling, women should simply take a few minutes to check out the tissue covering the breasts and underarm areas.
Any changes in the skin, including lumps or changes in texture, should be noted. It is also important to feel the breasts regularly to check for lumps, areas of tenderness, or thickening in the breast or under the arms.
Checking should be done at all stages of the menstrual cycle. Doing so means that a woman can be aware of how her breasts change over time.
Diagnosis and treatment
Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional if there are concerns about any changes to the breasts.
Any time a woman finds dimpling of the breast tissue or observes other changes in her breast tissue, she should call her doctor to be seen immediately.
The doctor will perform a clinical breast exam and may order further testing, such as a mammogram, ultrasound, or MRI. Depending on the results, the doctor may want to biopsy the breast tissue to look for cancerous cells.
If breast cancer is diagnosed, there are several different treatment options available. Options depend on the cancer's stage, location, and whether the cancer has spread.
These options include:
- Surgery: Surgical removal of the cancerous tissue or the entire breast
- Chemotherapy: Medications that either kill cancer cells or prevent them from growing
- Radiation: High-energy X-rays or radiation to specifically target cancerous tissue and destroy it
- Hormonal therapy: Blocking the activity of certain hormones that fuel or encourage the growth of cancerous cells
Before starting treatment, the doctor will put together a plan that offers the best chance for long-term survival and meets with the goals and wishes of the patient.
This may mean combining two or more different types of treatment, especially if an aggressive form of cancer is diagnosed.
It can be scary to find a lump or other changes in the breasts. However, it is very important not to put off calling the doctor.
Inflammatory breast cancer can be aggressive. Like other breast cancers, outlook and survival improve if the cancer is diagnosed and treated early in the disease process.