About one-sixth of women (17%) diagnosed with breast cancer visit a doctor with a symptom other than a lump, which is the most commonly reported symptom, new research has found.

Breast cancer symptoms, other than a breast lump that may be a sign of cancer— known as ‘non-lump’ symptoms —include nipple abnormalities, breast pain, skin abnormalities, ulceration, shape abnormalities and an infected or inflamed breast.

“Our research shows around one in six women diagnosed with breast cancer have symptoms other than a breast lump. These women are more likely to delay going to the doctor compared to women with breast lump alone,” said Monica Koo from University College London (UCL).

“It’s crucial that women are aware that a lump is not the only symptom of breast cancer. Diagnosing cancer earlier really is key in order to increase the chances of survival,” Koo suggested.

In the study, researchers from UCL examined the data of more than 2,300 women diagnosed with breast cancer in England in 2009-2010.

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.

“This research shows that, all too often, women are delaying going to their doctor with symptoms of breast cancer. This could be because people are simply unaware that breast cancer can present in many different ways, not just through the presence of a lump,” added Karen Kennedy, Director of the The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) — a UK-based research organisation.

The study was presented at the 2016 National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer conference in Liverpool, recently.