Around one in six women (17 percent) diagnosed with breast cancer goes to her doctor with a symptom other than a lump — the most commonly reported breast cancer symptom, according to new research presented at the 2016 National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) cancer conference in Liverpool.

Researchers from UCL examined the data of more than 2,300 women diagnosed with breast cancer in England in 2009/10. They found that, although most women with breast cancer sought help quickly, those with ‘non-lump’ symptoms were more likely to delay going to their doctor compared with women with a breast lump alone.

Women with both a breast lump and ‘non-lump’ symptoms were also more likely to delay seeking help.

Dr. Stegall’s Comments: This article highlights a very important point, and that is that there are many signs and symptoms of breast cancer. While we typically associate breast cancer with a lump, not all lumps are cancerous and not all cancers result in a palpable lump. Other findings can be present in breast cancer, including changes in color, changes in texture, nipple discharge, changes in breast shape, and breast pain/tenderness, just to name a few. I encourage all women to be experts on their own breasts. Look at them regularly in the mirror to see if their visual appearance has changed. Examine them on a monthly basis to see if you notice any changes in the way they look or feel. While it is important for your doctor to do a routine breast exam, he or she is unlikely to remember details about your breasts the way you would. Vigilance is important, and this includes regular imaging to see beneath the surface for possible lumps you can’t see or feel. I feel that mammograms, ultrasounds, and thermograms all have their place.