An elderly woman in white shirt holding a pink ribbon symbolizing breast cancer treatment.

8 Breast Cancer Signs in Older Adults

Every 2 minutes, a new case of breast cancer is diagnosed in a woman in the U.S. However, amidst this concerning statistics, there is a silver lining. Advances in early detection and treatment have resulted in a remarkable 39 percent reduction in breast cancer-related deaths in the U.S. from 1989 to 2015. 

While breast cancer can affect individuals of all ages, its probability increases with age, making older adults a particularly vulnerable population. The crucial role of early detection cannot be overstated, making it imperative for the elderly and their caregivers to recognize the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. 

In this blog, we will delve into breast cancer risk factors in older adults, common warning signs, and emphasize the critical significance of regular screenings and self-examinations.

Common Signs and Symptoms

If you are a caregiver for an elderly loved one at home, it’s essential to be aware of these eight common signs and symptoms that can aid in the early detection of breast cancer.

  1. Lump or Mass in the Breasts: One of the most prevalent indicators of breast cancer is the discovery of a lump or mass within the breast tissue. Seniors are advised to conduct regular self-examinations and promptly seek medical attention if they detect any unusual changes. While it’s normal for breasts to have some texture, breast cancer can lead to the development of firmer, irregular lumps or nodules.
  1. Changes in Breast Appearance: Any changes in the size, shape, or appearance of the breasts should not be overlooked. This includes dimpling, puckering, or redness of the skin. Breast cancer can provoke inflammation in breast skin, resulting in changes in texture like scaliness and thickening, often accompanied by itching.
  1. Nipple Changes: Seniors should be vigilant about changes in the nipples, including inversion (turning inward), discharge, or scaling, and promptly report them to a healthcare provider. 
  1. Breast Pain: Although breast pain is not typically a primary symptom of breast cancer, persistent and unexplained discomfort should not be disregarded and should be investigated.
  1. Swelling in the Armpit or Collarbone: Enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit or collarbone area can signal the spread of breast cancer to nearby lymph nodes.
  1. Skin Changes: Unusual skin alterations on the breast, such as peeling or flaking, may be indicative of breast cancer.
  1. Partial or Full Swelling in the Breasts: While minor variations in breast size are common in healthy individuals, breast cancer can cause partial or complete swelling in one or both breasts. Notably, the skin over the swollen areas may feel tighter compared to the surrounding skin.
  1. Genetic Risk Factors: While breast cancer is not strictly hereditary, some individuals are genetically predisposed to a higher risk, particularly if one or more first-degree relatives have experienced the condition.

Awareness of these common signs and symptoms of breast cancer is vital for early intervention and improved outcomes. Regular self-examinations, prompt reporting of changes to healthcare providers, and consistent screenings are crucial steps in ensuring the well-being of an elderly loved one in the face of this potentially life-threatening condition.

Final Thoughts

Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate by age, affecting seniors as well, and early detection is pivotal for successful treatment. When it comes to detecting breast cancer and preventing its spread, regular mammograms are your strongest ally. The guidelines provided by the American Cancer Society are clear: women aged 55 and older should get yearly mammograms or switch to every other year.

By staying informed and proactive, we can collectively ensure the health and well-being of our elderly loved ones.

If you or a loved one is navigating cancer treatment and needs continuous expert care, reach out to Affinity Senior Care at 248.657.7674.