7. Your boobs look really veiny
Being able to see your veins on the surface of your breasts depends on a lot of things—skin color, amount of subcutaneous fat, pregnancy, genetics—but you should be paying attention to those squiggly blue or green lines as changes in their appearance can be an early sign of breast cancer, Dr. Ross says.
Being veiny in general is nothing to be concerned about, but if you’ve never been able to see them before and now you can, or if they’ve suddenly become much bigger, darker, or more prominent, then it’s time to be concerned. “Visible veins can indicate the presence of a tumor as they require more blood flow and therefore more veins,” she explains. “Or the tumor may be blocking the blood flow, causing the veins nearby to swell.”
8. You can’t stop itching your nipples
Sometimes the girls just need a good scratch, especially if you’re wearing a bra edged with lace or sequins. (Why, bra manufacturers, why?) But if your nips are constantly itchy there’s a good possibility something else is up and you need to get them checked, Dr. Patt says.
Many things can cause itchy nipples, including a yeast infection or other infection, allergies, and irritation from clothing. But there is a rare type of breast cancer that can cause a dry, red, itchy rash to appear on or around your nipples, similar to the type you get with eczema, she explains.
Regardless of the cause, an itchy rash is one symptom you should always have your doctor take a look at, particularly if it doesn’t go away after a week or two.
9. Your armpit is sore (and you didn’t do pushups)
Fun fact: Your breast tissue extends far past the circular (boobular?) part you stick in your bra cups. “Your breasts actually go along the side of your chest and up into your armpits,” Dr. Ross explains. You can get breast cancer in this bonus boob tissue or cancer can cause lymph nodes in your armpit area to swell, she says. So if your armpits become painful or swollen—and you didn’t go overboard on the chest press machine—or you feel a mass when shaving, give your doc a call.
Armpit discomfort is a common complaint and most of the time it’s nothing to worry about but it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your breasts (and pits), Ross says.
10. You have a zit that won’t heal
Didn’t know that you can get zits on your breasts? It’s true. It’s not uncommon to get small sores, including pimples and even warts, on your breasts or nipples, Dr. Ross says. In women who workout, you may find them in places you sweat heavily, like between your breasts, or along the line of your sports bra where sweat can get trapped and clog your pores.
Most zits will go away on their own with time and good hygiene. But if you’ve got a small sore of any type that doesn’t go away after a week or two, it’s worth it to get it checked out. “Having sores or bruises that won’t heal can be an early sign of cancer,” she explains.
11. You notice changes that aren’t related to your boobs at all
Back pain, neck pain, and unexplained weight loss were all listed as other breast cancer symptoms that led women to seek medical care and ultimately get diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the NCRI study.
That’s because breast cancer can spread before it’s caught, causing symptoms in body parts that have nothing to do with your boobs. It’s not possible to identify every possible sign of breast cancer (or, rather, that list would be way too long to be meaningful) so when it comes to early detection, you are your own best weapon, says Dr. Denduluri. Overall, any persistent, noticeable change should be checked by a doctor.