How To Do A Breast Self
Once youve done a self-exam while standing, youre not quite done yet. Lay down for the final steps:
- Lay down. Put your head on a pillow and note any changes to the skin on your breasts, or size.
- Feel your breasts. Using the same technique with your arm up and hand behind your head, feel your breasts with your opposite hand, and use the circular or up-and-down method.
- Check the surrounding areas. It’s important to feel your underarm area as well as the hard area of your ribcage on your upper chest and sides.
Report any changes in your breasts to your doctor. Of course, its hard not to worry when you find something, but know that:
- Finding a lump or any other change doesnt always mean its cancer
- Its also important to know that performing a breast self-exam doesnt replace getting regular mammograms or getting your annual exams by your doctor
A Lump In Your Breast Or Underarm
A lump or a firm feeling in the breast is the most common sign of breast cancer, and it is often one of the first noticeable symptoms. Lumps/Nodes come in all shapes and sizes, and they can sometimes spread to the underarm. Performing self-breast examinations can make it easy to notice changes in your breasts however, some lumps may be too small to feel. This is why mammograms are NOT RECOMMENDED AS A REPLACEMENT for self-breast examinations. Most masses are generally visible on a mammogram long before you can see or feel them. Once an abnormal area is identified on the mammogram, further testing can follow.
Visible Changes In The Nipple Or Skin
After puberty, your nipples remain fairly consistent in shape, size and color. Generally, there shouldnt be any sudden changes with your nipples or skin. But if there are any visible changes, such as a red, itchy or scaly rash inversion or sucking-in of the nipple dimpling, puckering or other changes in the skin on or around the nipple, you should see your doctor.
As breast cancer progresses, it grows and pushes other things out of the way, Dr. Duncan says. This can cause changes in the breast, skin and nipple as the breasts internal structure changes.
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Does Breast Pain Increase The Risk Of Breast Cancer
Though it’s uncommon, there are some painful breast conditions which may raise your risk. Both radial scars and multiple or complex fibroadenomas increase your risk of breast cancer Many breast conditions which cause pain confer only a minimally increased risk of breast cancer, such as ductal ectasia, fat necrosis, a breast abscess, simple fibroadenomas, and others.
Other Causes Of Pain And Tenderness
We often associate pain with something wrong, so when people feel tenderness or pain in their breast, they often think of breast cancer. But breast pain is rarely the first noticeable symptom of breast cancer. Several other factors can cause the pain.
Clinically known as mastalgia, breast pain can also be caused by the following:
- the fluctuation of hormones caused by menstruation
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Reduce Your Risk Of Breast Cancer With Early Detection And Prevention
When it comes to cancer, early detection is important, but so is reducing your risk. There are several healthy lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your risk of breast cancer.
Stay lean after menopause. Keep a healthy weight and a low amount of body fat. Eating a healthy diet can help.
Get active and sit less. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week. Do strength-training exercises at least two days a week.
Avoid alcohol. If you drink, limit yourself to one drink per day if you are a woman, and two drinks per day if you are a man.
Choose to breastfeed. Try to breastfeed exclusively for six months after giving birth, and continue even when other foods are introduced.
Manage hormones naturally. If you are going through menopause and trying to control the symptoms, try non-hormonal methods before turning to hormone replacement therapy.
In addition to making healthy lifestyle choices, get regular breast cancer screening exams. Screening exams can detect cancer early, when it’s easiest to treat. Women age 25 to 39 should consider a clinical breast exam every one to three years. Women 40 and older should get an annual breast exam and a screening mammogram.
How Breast Cancer Spreads
Breast cancer can spread to other regions of the body in a few primary ways:
When breast cancer spreads to another organ it is still breast cancer. For example, if breast cancer were to spread to the lungs it would not be called lung cancer. Instead, we’d refer to it as breast cancer spread to the lungs or breast cancer with lung metastases. If you were to look at the cancer cells in the lungs under the microscope they would be cancerous breast cells, not cancerous lung cells.
Cancers that have spread to other tissues may be different than the original tumor, and this is another area of confusion. Cancers aren’t just a clone of abnormal cells that propagate mindlessly. Rather, they are continually changing and developing new mutations. For this reason, a tumor that was estrogen receptor positive when found in the breast may now be estrogen receptor negative. HER2 status may change as well. This also explains why metastatic tumors are sometimes more aggressive than the original tumor.
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When To See Your Doctor
It’s important to talk to your physician if you have breast pain from any cause. Even if it’s not due to cancer, many women find that breast pain decreases their quality of life. In one study,15% of the women experienced breast pain at some time in their life that interfered with work and family activities. So, make sure to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any suspicious discomfort.
Signs Of Breast Cancer Recurrence
Despite initial treatment and success, breast cancer can sometimes come back. This is called recurrence. Recurrence happens when a small number of cells escape the initial treatment.
Symptoms of a recurrence in the same place as the first breast cancer are very similar to symptoms of the first breast cancer. They include:
- a new breast lump
- redness or swelling of the breast
- a new thickening near the mastectomy scar
If breast cancer comes back regionally, it means that the cancer has returned to the lymph nodes or near to the original cancer but not exactly the same place. The symptoms may be slightly different.
Symptoms of a regional recurrence may include:
- lumps in your lymph nodes or near the collarbone
- chest pain
- pain or loss of sensation in your arm or shoulder
- swelling in your arm on the same side as the original breast cancer
If youve had a mastectomy or other surgery related to breast cancer, you might get lumps or bumps caused by scar tissue in the reconstructed breast. This isnt cancer, but you should let your doctor know about them so they can be monitored.
As with any cancer, early detection and treatment are major factors in determining the outcome. Breast cancer is easily treated and usually curable when detected in the earliest of stages.
The best way to fight breast cancer is early detection. Talk with your doctor about when you should start scheduling regular mammograms.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a painless, hard lump around the breast area or under the armpit. However, any type of lump, whether it’s soft, tender, or even painful, could be a cancerous mass.
That’s why it’s not always possible to distinguish cancerous from non-cancerous lumps without a clinical exam, imaging, or breast biopsy, says , Yale Medicine breast oncologist at the Yale Cancer Center. Therefore, it’s important to see a health care professional if you notice any changes in your breasts.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists no longer recommends people with average breast cancer risk regularly perform self-exams as there is no evidence doing so improves outcomes. However, many people may still want to routinely check their breasts for peace of mind or because they have a higher risk of breast cancer.
What Are The Signs Of Breast Cancer
While breast is more common in older women, it does affect the younger generation and men too with around 20 per cent of cases occurring in females under 50 and 350 male cases diagnosed in the UK annually.
While 90 per cent of such lumps are not cancerous, it is vital to get them checked by your GP at the earliest opportunity detecting the disease early can mean treatment is more effective.
It is therefore vitally important to be “breast aware” – know what feels normal for you, and therefore what changes to look out for.
The most common signs to know include:
- A lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit. You might feel the lump, but not see it.
- Changes in the size or shape of the breast
- A change in skin texture i.e. puckering or dimpling of the skin
- A change in the colour of the breast – the breast may look red or inflamed
- Rash, crusting or changes to the nipple
- Any unusual discharge from either nipple
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What Research Is Being Done On Breast Cancer Is It Worthwhile To Participate In A Breast Cancer Clinical Trial
Without research and clinical trials, there would be no progress in our treatment of cancers.
Research can take many forms, including research directly on cancer cells or using animals.
Research that a patient can be involved in is referred to as a clinical trial. In clinical trials, different treatment regimens are compared for side effects and outcomes, including long-term survival. Clinical trials are designed to find out whether new approaches are safe and effective.
Whether one should participate in a clinical trial is a personal decision and should be based upon a full understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the trial. One should discuss the trial with a health care team and ask how this trial might be different from the treatment one would usually receive.
Someone should never be forced to participate in a clinical trial or be involved in a trial without full understanding of the trial and a written and signed consent.
What To Do If You Spot A Possible Sign Of Breast Cancer
Dont panic. If you notice a change in your breast, it doesnt necessarily mean you have breast cancer. Some of these changes may be a result of benign, or non-cancerous, breast conditions, explains Dr. Duncan.
Still, if you notice any change at all, especially one occurring in only one breast, its a good idea to contact your doctor to get treatment started right away, if necessary.
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There’s Dimpling On Your Breast Skin
Noticing some dimpling in the skin of one of your breasts might not seem like a big deal, but it could be a sign of breast cancer, says the Mayo Clinic. The issuewhich is called peau d’ orange, due to its resemblance of the texture of an orange peelcould be a sign of a more invasive type of breast cancer.
Are There Early Signs Of Breast Cancer
As with other types of cancer, breast cancer is most responsive to treatment when diagnosed in its early stages. Breast cancer does not usually cause symptoms in its early stages, but it may cause signs that every woman should be aware of.
The first thing you should know about the early signs of breast cancer is that they can vary from person to person, so something that could indicate breast cancer in one person may not be a sign of cancer in another. The signs and symptoms may also vary between the different types of breast cancer. Also, some people do not experience any signs of breast cancer when the condition is in its early stages.
Because breast cancer does not cause many physical symptoms in its early stages, mammograms are the number one way to detect the condition. Having a mammogram can also provide answers, so you dont have to guess about the significance of any signs or symptoms you may be experiencing.
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Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer
The warning signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women.
The most common signs are:
- A change in the look or feel of the breast OR
- A change in the look or feel of the nipple OR
- Nipple discharge
If you have any of the warning signs described below, see a health care provider .
If you dont have a provider, one of the best ways to find a good one is to get a referral from a trusted family member or friend.
If thats not an option, call your health department, a clinic or a nearby hospital. If you have insurance, your insurance company may also have a list of providers in your area.
Learn more about finding a health care provider.
In most cases, these changes are not cancer.
One example is breast pain. Pain is more common with benign breast conditions than with breast cancer, but the only way to know for sure is to get it checked.
If the change turns out to be breast cancer, its best to find it at an early stage, when the chances of survival are highest.
How Does Breast Cancer Start
Breast cancer occurs when cells in the breast grow out of control. Different kinds of breast cells develop into different . Most breast cancers begin in the breast ducts or lobules . These are known respectively as invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma. Other less common types of breast cancer include inflammatory breast cancer and ductal carcinoma in situ.
Though breast cancer is most common in women, men can develop it as well. A mans lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 883. This year, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 2,620 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
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Nipple Retraction Or Inversion
Breast cancer can cause cell changes behind the nipple. These changes can result in the nipple inverting and reversing inward into the breast, or it may look different in terms of its size.
The appearance of the nipples can often alter during ovulation or other parts of the menstrual cycle, but people should see a doctor about any new nipple changes.
Types Of Breast Cancer
There are many different types of breast cancer, which are determined by the specific cells in the breast that are affected. Some are more prevalent than others. Types of breast cancer include:
- Invasive ductal carcinoma is by far the most common type of breast cancer, accounting for 80% of casesInvasive Lobular Carcinoma . Breast cancer.Org. Accessed 10/5/2021. . This is cancer that begins in the milk ducts and moves into the breast tissue. It is often felt as a lump.
- Invasive lobular carcinoma accounts for about 10% of breast cancers in womenInvasive Lobular Carcinoma . Breast cancer.Org. Accessed 10/5/2021. . It begins in the milk glands, rather than the ducts, and tends to affect women at a later age than other types of breast cancers. Because of the way it forms, ILC is more often felt as a thickening or hardening in the breast instead of a distinct lump. It can also cause skin and nipple changes.
- Inflammatory breast cancer tends to be aggressive and needs immediate treatment. IBC accounts for only 1% to 5% of breast cancers and unlike more common forms, it doesnt usually appear as a lump, but causes the affected breast to redden or darken and swellInflammatory Breast Cancer . American Cancer Society. Accessed 10/11/2021. . The nipple may invert and the breast may feel heavy, hot and uncomfortable. The breast skin may look rashy or look like the peel of a navel orange.
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How To Check For Breast Cancer Lumps
If you want to check your breasts regularly, it’s best to do breast self-exams once a month, says , director of The Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital and chief of breast medical oncology at the Yale Cancer Center.
Here are the steps on how to do it:
Aside from lumps, other signs of breast cancer include:
- Dimpling or puckering on the breast, similar to an orange peel
- Bloody or clear fluid discharge from the nipple
- Skin retraction or inverted nipple
- Noticeable changes in the look or feel of the breast or nipple
- Redness, warmth, or dark spots on the breast area
- Visible rash on the nipple
- Swelling and/or pain in one or both breasts