Many breast cancer symptoms are invisible and not noticeable without a professional screening, but some symptoms can be caught early just by being proactive about your breast health.
All women and men should do breast self-exams.
Changes to look for:
- Skin looks different: “orange peel skin” – skin appears red, scaley, dimpled.
- Lump: does not always mean cancer. Your physician will evaluate. The lump or thickened skin can also be found near the arm pit.
- Unexplained swelling
- Change in size or inverted nipple or drainage
Once a Month Self-Exam:
Adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. Johns Hopkins Medical center states that men should also do breast self-exams.
“Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so doing a regular breast self-exam is very important.”
How to do a self-exam:
In the Shower
With the pads/flats of your 3 middle fingers, check the entire breast and armpit area pressing down with light, medium, and firm pressure. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, hardened knot, or any other breast changes.
In the Mirror
Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead.
Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.
When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently covering the entire breast area and armpit.
Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.
If your doctor is concerned with any physical exam or your reporting of a concern
Family history is critical and may prompt earlier exams.
Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so. Women ages 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year. Women 55 and older should have one every year. Risk for Breast Cancer increases with age.
Make sure you have a copy of the report and that you understand the results
Remember, Men get Breast Cancer too
Anyone on Hormone therapy needs to be vigilant and should have a mammogram periodically.
The ACS also recommends that women with a family history of breast cancer, certain genetic tendencies, or dense breast tissue be screened with MRI in addition to mammograms, along with digital mammography.
To your good health,