The body’s largest organ, our skin, works, renews itself and constantly sends us warning signals about various aspects of our health. Comprised of approximately 21 square feet, containing over eleven miles of blood vessels, and shedding approximately 30,000 of its 300 million skin cells every minute, our skin can tell us about our lungs, our heart health, and more. Lesions, bumps, and moles that change color or have jagged edges are all well-known symptoms of skin cancer. But another type of skin problem could mean cancer in a part of your body that you might not expect. Read on to find out which skin symptom to watch out for and what it could mean.
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The second most common type of cancer among women in the United States (skin cancer being the first), breast cancer is also the leading cause of cancer death among women in 130 countries around the world. The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or lump, as the American Cancer Society describes: “A painless, hard lump that has jagged edges is more likely to be cancerous, but breast cancers can also be soft, round, tender, or even painful,” they report, noting that breast lumps can also be a symptom of non-cancerous conditions, such as cysts or infection. Other signs of breast cancer can include a leaky or inverted nipple, as well as a change in the size or shape of the breasts.But you may be surprised to learn that a rash can also signal breast cancer.
“It’s important to keep in mind that most rashes found on the breast aren’t too much of a concern,” says Shelly Beckley, APN, Oncology Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Support Manager at Outcomes4Me. “I always recommend that women contact their medical team any time they notice any change in their breasts, whether it’s a new lump or a rash.”
Skin rashes can signify many different conditions. Infections, allergies, heatstroke, viruses, and stress can all cause rashes, as can breast cancer.
“There are two types of rashes that can indicate breast cancer,” says Beckley, who adds that these rashes may first appear to be eczema or another common type of rash. “Paget’s disease of the breast is a rare condition that manifests as scaly, thickened skin around the nipple or areola that is red and itchy. The nipple may also become flattened or inverted,” says- she, noting that “usually Paget’s disease is diagnosed with breast cancer.”
“Another type of breast cancer that can manifest as a rash is inflammatory breast cancer (IBC),” says Beckley. “[IBC] is an aggressive cancer that may have a small red rash or an area of irritation similar to an insect bite as the first sign of illness.” Beckley warns that “this small area may then spread and become swollen, painful and warm at the touch, and can evolve further to have the appearance of orange peel (Orange peel).”
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“We don’t know why Paget’s disease occurs and why the rash appears,” says Beckley. “The breast cancer often found with Paget’s disease is ductal in nature – ductal carcinoma in situ or invasive ductal carcinoma – and cancer cells are thought to travel through the milk ducts to the nipple and breast. surrounding areola, which causes the rash,” she explains. With IBC, Beckley notes that “the cancer grows quite quickly and spreads to the lymphatic system in the breast as well as the skin, causing the rash.”
Beckley recommends women see a doctor when they notice any change in their breasts, including rashes or lumps. “If you’re seen for a rash on your breast and it doesn’t improve and go away with treatment, let your medical team know,” she says. “Nipple changes or breast pain, as well as any new or worsening rashes, are all symptoms that women should take seriously and check with their doctor.”
Since some breast cancer symptoms aren’t always apparent, Beckley advises screening and testing, as well as getting to know your body. “My strongest recommendation is to be aware of your body and perform monthly breast exams, including looking at your breasts in a mirror,” she suggests. “Knowing how your breasts feel and look will allow you to notice changes over time.”
Also, be aware of your risk factors for breast cancer. “It’s important to know your family history of cancer and whether you might be at higher risk for breast cancer,” says Beckley. The American Cancer Society offers screening guidelines; women between the ages of 40 and 44 can opt for annual mammograms, while women between the ages of 45 and 54 should have a mammogram every year. Women over 55 can choose to continue annual mammograms or decide to do them every two years.
Beckley advises women to follow their recommended guidelines and make healthy lifestyle choices. “Breast health also shares similarities with overall health, including following a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, exercising, reducing stress, limiting alcohol intake, and not [using tobacco],” she says.
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