Early Breast Cancer

What Is Early Breast Cancer?

Early breast cancer is an early stage of breast cancer. It has not yet spread outside the mammary gland, the main tissue in the breast. The cancer is largely confined to the breast and has a much better prognosis and treatment options compared to later stage breast cancer.

Signs and Symptoms

Early breast cancer may cause the following signs or symptoms:

  • Change in size or shape of the breast, such as a lump, bulge or dimple
  • Pain in the breast
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk
  • Redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin

It is important to note that most of these signs and symptoms can be caused by other, non-cancerous conditions. Therefore, any changes in the breasts should be reported to a doctor or other health professional.


If one or more of the signs or symptoms is present, the doctor may order a mammogram or other imaging tests. If the results are suspicious, a biopsy may be necessary to determine if the cells are cancerous. This can be done in two ways:

  • Surgical biopsy: This may involve removing some of the tissue from the breast or lymph nodes.
  • Fine needle aspiration: Cells may be removed with a thin needle and analyzed.

If the biopsy confirms the presence of cancer, additional tests may be performed to determine the type and extent of the cancer.


The treatment of early breast cancer depends on a number of factors, including the type of cancer, the location of the tumor, the age of the patient, and the overall health of the patient. Options may include:

  • Surgery: Typically a mastectomy (removal of the entire breast), or a lumpectomy (removal of the tumor and some surrounding tissue).
  • Radiation: High-energy beams may be used to destroy the cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: In some cases, drugs may be used to kill the cancer cells in the body.
  • Hormone therapy: Drugs may be used to stop the growth of cancer cells that are sensitive to hormones.

In some cases, a combination of these treatments may be used. The type of treatment is based on the severity of the cancer and the preferences of the patient.


There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, but there are steps that may reduce the risk of developing it. These include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Limiting alcohol intake.
  • Engaging in regular physical activity.
  • Having regular screenings (mammogram, breast MRI).

Early detection and treatment are the best way to reduce the risk of developing more serious forms of breast cancer. If you notice any changes in your breasts that concern you, contact your doctor as soon as possible.