Part One: Breast Health 101
Did you know that 1 in 8 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime?
Everyone, especially women, should know the signs and symptoms associated with breast cancer. If any kind of abnormality is discovered, this should be investigated promptly by your healthcare provider.
It’s important to remember that many patients with breast cancer don’t experience all of these symptoms and the presence of any of these symptoms does not automatically mean that you have breast cancer.
The purpose of self-breast exams is not to self diagnose but so that you will be able to more easily identify any abnormalities in your breast. It’s essential that you communicate with your healthcare provider if you notice anything out of the ordinary.
1. Self-Breast Exams
Self-breast exams can help you become accustomed to how your breasts are on a normal basis. This can help you identify abnormalities in your breasts which should be reported to your health care professional immediately. If you find a bump or lump, schedule an appointment with our office, but don’t panic and remember that most lumps are not cancerous.
Changes to look for include:
● An inverted nipple
● Nipple discharge (fluid)
● Scaly, red, or swollen skin
● A lump or thickening
● A difference in shape or size
● Puckering or dimpling
Please make an appointment with our office if you have any of these symptoms. Most of the time these symptoms are not due to cancer, but if you notice any changes in your body, tell us immediately so that the problems can be diagnosed and treated promptly.
2. Wellness Exam
We recommend that women visit their health care practitioners every year for a wellness exam. In addition to a pap smear and a routine pelvic exam, your doctor may perform a quick breast exam to check for irregularities. This exam is a great opportunity for you to address any questions or concerns you have regarding your breast health with your healthcare provider. It’s especially important because breast cancer doesn’t usually cause detectable symptoms in its early stages.
A mammogram is a quick, safe and basically painless X-ray of the breast. It is a safe way to detect abnormal breast conditions, like cancerous tumors. The National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends that women over 40 get an annual mammogram. They can detect problems before a lump becomes large enough to be detected by touch and women who have regular mammogram screenings have a better chance of surviving breast cancer than women who do not. This is because mammograms provide an effective way to detect breast cancer early when treatment is typically the most successful.
Mammograms can help you to detect cancer before you can feel a lump and self-breast exams can help you become familiar with your breasts so you can inform your healthcare professional if there are any abnormalities.