When Meghan Hall, 34, was diagnosed with breast cancer, it wasn’t because she (or a doctor) felt a lump.
“I noticed something green spilled on the front of my shirt, I didn’t think anything of it—until I tried to take it off and realized it was stuck to my nipple,” Meghan says. “My breast was leaking green fluid.”
That’s right: Meghan’s breast cancer symptom was green fluid leaking from her nipples—and her experience isn’t unique. According to preliminary researchpresented at the UK National Cancer Research Institute’s (NCRI) 2016 conference, one in six women who discovered their cancer themselves caught it based on a less-obvious breast cancer symptom, like nipple abnormalities and weight loss (a.k.a. not a lump).
These self-reported breast cancers—especially ones that don’t involve the typical lump—highlight why it’s so important to pay attention to any strange signs or symptoms or changes you may be experiencing, in addition to staying on top of your mammograms and annual checkups, says Neelima Denduluri, MD, the associate chair of the U.S. Oncology Network Breast Committee.
Instead, it’s best to examine your breasts as a whole—keeping track of what they normally feel and look like—so you can report any changes to your doc, whether they’re cancer or not, she adds.