The excellent coppafeel.org categorically list pain as a recognised symptom: ‘Constant, unusual pain in your breast or armpit.’
It’s a shame that there is not more consistency of message on such an important issue.
I’m sorry that you too have been swept up in this. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the system, does it? This at a time when, above all else, we have such a strong need to know that our concerns are taken seriously and to have complete faith in those who are responsible for the the smooth progress of our treatment. I notice that breastcancer.org - an American organisation I believe - categorically include the presence of breast pain as a possible symptom of breast cancer. It’s often said that where America goes we inevitably follow, so let’s hope…
Hi, couldn’t agree more. I went to my gp in feb 2019 with breast pain, she did an examination and said all felt fine and that because I was experiencing other peri menopausal symptoms it was most likely due to hormonal changes. the months rolled on by and I then noticed in that an area of my Breast was firmer, the same area where the pain would radiate from (about 3 cm above my nipple) I went back to the dr and was referred, following scans and biopsy I was diagnosed with Idc in October 2019 and It had spread to a lymph node in my armpit too.
Persistent pain in the breast should not be ignored.
Firstly, I am so sorry you find yourself in this situation and hope that the results of your scans are favourable. Please let us know.
I too had a supposedly ‘clear’ routine mammogram just a few short weeks before I discovered the lump. And, like you, was assured at my first hospital appointment that the presence of pain coupled with a clear mammogram meant that it was ‘unlikely to be anything sinister.’ Cue for an unhurried delay in organising further tests. In fact I had a Grade 2 IDC that had already spread to the lymph nodes. Incidentally my pre-surgery ultrasound indicated that my lymph nodes were clear.
Despite these worrying diagnostic failures I do hope that you can now place your faith in the team treating you, empowered by the fact that you have learned from the past omissions/mistakes of the medics and have the confidence to assert that you know your body best and are the ultimate advocate for your own health and care. I suppose it is impossible to say with any certainty whether the original pain of five years ago is definitely linked to the tumour you have now, but I do hope that you are able to let go of any energy-sapping negativity and throw all your positivity and resources into making a good recovery. Now is not the time for backward looking ‘if onlys.’ Ever onwards. But perhaps let’s both keep banging away loudly at the fundamental message that pain should not be ignored in the symptom criteria for diagnosing early breast cancer.
I wish you the very best of luck with your treatment!
I totally agree with you. Five years ago I started to have a gnawing pain in my left breast mostly in the outer lower quadrant. I was 48 at the time and was sent for a mammogram which came back clear so no further investigation, but the pain was always there and eventually I just put up with it. 2 yrs ago I had a standard mammogram which was also clear even though I told them about the pain. Then in June just past my dog kept sniffing at my chest and wouldn’t leave it alone, and then my granddaughter accidentally knocked the same place and it was soo painful. So the next morning I checked in the shower and found a lump 4cm in the same place as the original pain 5 years previously. Now after all the tests they say I have grade 3 IDC and I’m getting my PET/CT scan results tomorrow morning to see if it’s spread. The point is I’ve been told so many times that it’s a GOOD sign if it’s painful because it’s probably not cancer. Now it may be too late 🤷♀️
@Justplainpat - your post didn’t come across as a rant at all, but was really helpful and informative. I wonder if you could send it onto someone at BCN to see if the message can be amended? Evie xx
The almost casual dismissal of pain as an early symptom of breast cancer has long troubled me. And this morning, following the very sad death of Sarah Harding ( a young woman who was diagnosed too late, having dismissed the pain around her breast as a probable cyst), the bee in my bonnet is buzzing ever louder.
I accept that pain is not a USUAL symptom of early breast cancer. But it certainly CAN be! In my own case, it was the pain that guided me to discover the lump. I can only describe it as a gnawing pain, a gnawing pain that continued from the time I first went to the GP right up until my mastectomy almost ten long weeks later. I imagine the location of the tumour has some bearing on the pain factor. If the cancer is growing in, say, the favoured fleshy upper, outer quadrant of the breast then pain is unlikely to be an issue. If the tumour is sited around the exquisitely sensitive, nerve ending-charged nipple area, as mine was, then you may well experience the awful sensation of that damned rodent persistently chewing away 24/7.
Far too many reputable symptom guides still refer to ‘a hard painless lump.’ The NHS website states that “Breast pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer.” Breast Cancer Now gives the same message: “On its own, pain in your breasts is not usually a sign of breast cancer.” The presence of pain as an early symptom appeared to lessen any sense of urgency in the perception of the professionals and delayed my own diagnosis. I cannot imagine for one moment that my experience is unique.
No one wants to flood already overwhelmed GP surgeries with a deluge of women seeking advice for normal, cyclical breast discomfort but surely the wording of Breast Cancer Symptom Checkers could reflect the reality that pain IS an initial presenting symptom for some. A simple change in emphasis and word order may be all that is needed: perhaps ‘Pain may be an early symptom, but this is not common,’ rather than ‘Pain is not usually a symptom.’
Rant over. As you were…