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How Doctors Check For Breast Cancer

What Are The Symptoms Of Breast Cancer

How to Check for Breast Cancer [Dr. Claudia]

Some of the symptoms include:

  • A lump or abnormality in the shape or feel of the breast
  • A lump in the underarm area
  • A generalized swelling of all or a part of the breast
  • An irritation or dimpling of the skin on the breast
  • Nipple retraction
  • Rash, redness or scaliness on the nipple or breast skin
  • Spontaneous discharge from the nipple

Please consult your doctor if you are unsure about a symptom.

Should I Do Breast Self

Experts used to recommend that you do breast self-exams every month. A self-exam was a specific way of feeling your breasts. But research about breast self-exams has found that they may not be that helpful, so they are no longer recommended.

Just looking at your breasts and feeling them from time to time should be good enough. The key is knowing whats normal for your breasts so youll notice any changes in how they look or feel.

When Should I See A Doctor

It is important to remember that most breast changes are not caused by cancer, and the signs and symptoms can be caused by other medical conditions. However, if you have noticed any symptoms or changes in your breasts, it is important that you see your doctor without delay so that the changes can be checked. This may include a physical examination or imaging of your breasts. Early detection gives the best possible chance of survival if you are diagnosed with breast cancer.

It is important to remember that breast awareness does not replace having regular mammograms and other screening tests as recommended by your doctor. Some people diagnosed with breast cancer have signs or symptoms. However, some women have no signs/symptoms and the breast cancer is found during a screening mammogram.

In order to detect breast cancer early, it is recommended that all women between 50-74 years attend regular screening mammograms every two years. These are offered for free by BreastScreen Australia. Women aged 40-49 and 75 years and older are also eligible for free mammograms if they choose to attend. In deciding whether to attend a screening mammogram, women in these age groups can speak with their doctor and should also consider the potential benefits and downsides of screening mammograms for them.

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What Does A Lump In Your Breast Feel Like

A new lump is one of the most common signs of breast cancer. Lumps that are breast cancers can vary. For example, they may be painless or painful. Lumps can also be a sign of a benign breast condition. However, if you have found a new lump or breast change, it is important to see your doctor so that it can be checked by a health professional.

Benign Breast Conditions Linked To A Slight Increase In Breast Cancer Risk

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Some benign breast conditions are associated with a slight increase in the risk of developing breast cancer. All of these conditions involve an overgrowth of breast cells that closely resemble normal, healthy cells. The cells look fairly typical and are not abnormal .

The increase in cancer risk is so slight that it generally doesnt change recommendations about screening practices or follow-up. Your doctor may encourage you to pay closer attention to getting annual mammograms and adopting healthy behaviors that lower risk, such as exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting alcohol. However, your breast cancer risk is still considered to be similar to that of women at average risk.

In addition, your individual situation will be taken into account. You and your doctor can discuss your benign diagnosis in relation to any other well-defined risk factors you may have, such as family history or personal medical history. You can then decide if you need a different follow-up plan.

The following benign conditions are linked to a slight increase in cancer risk. Most would be diagnosed after youve had a biopsy of a suspicious area that showed up on an imaging study. Your doctor often will classify the condition based on the appearance of breast tissue under a microscope.

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Mammograms Are Your Best Hope

The first thing you should know about breast self-examsthey should NOT replace mammograms. Mammography is still the single most effective screening test for breast cancer known today. A mammogram is simply an X-ray of your breast tissue that tells your doctor if you have early warning signs of cancer.

You should have an annual mammogram beginning at age 40, but you should begin earlier if breast cancer runs in your family or you are in a high-risk group.

Other Members Of Your Treatment Team

Your care team will be made up of many cancer specialists in addition to your primary oncology doctors and nurses. Some of the people you may work with include:

  • Palliative care doctor and nurse: These specialists work with your primary care team to help you manage your physical and emotional symptoms and treatment side effects.
  • Dietician: They can offer ways to make meals more nutritious and appealing. They can also help you manage the effects of your treatment on your ability to eat.
  • Genetic counselor: These experts can help explain the hereditary aspect of your cancer. They may offer tests that can help members of your family understand their chances of having this or other types of cancer.
  • Oncology clinical pharmacist: Theyll keep an eye on the drugs prescribed for you. They can help you watch for side effects and problems like drug interactions.
  • Rehabilitation therapist: If your cancer or treatment affects how you function, a rehab therapist will help you with issues like mobility, daily tasks, and more.
  • Patient navigator or patient educator: This person guides you through your entire treatment process. Theyll help you find resources for financial help, counseling, and other services.

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What If You Have Early

If you have early-stage breast cancer but no symptoms to suggest the cancer has spread, you should not get an imaging test to look for cancer in other places in your body. The chance that your cancer has spread is very small. Studies show that breast cancer spreads to the liver and bones in fewer than 6 out of 100 people. And this is usually in patients with stage III breast cancer.

How To Perform A Breast Check

How to Check for Breast Cancer Symptoms (this could save your life)

Step 1 – Look

Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.

Here’s what you should see:

  • Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and colour
  • Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling

But if you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor’s attention:

  • Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
  • A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple
  • Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling

Step 2 – Raise your arms

Look again at your breasts with your raise your arms above your head and look for the same changes.

Step 3 – Lean forward

Now, lean forward so that there is a pendulum affect in your breasts, look for any dimpling, puckering or bulging of the skin.

Step 4 – Fluids?

While you’re at the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples .

Step 5 – Feel lying down

Next, feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast.

Use a firm, smooth touch with the first three finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Use a circular motion, about the size of a 2p coin. Check the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.

When you’ve reached the deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your rib cage.

Step 6 – Feel standing or sitting

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Mammogram And Breast Ultrasound

If you have symptoms and have been referred to a specialist breast unit by a GP, you’ll probably be invited to have a mammogram, which is an X-ray of your breasts. You may also need an ultrasound scan.

If cancer was detected through the NHS Breast Screening Programme, you may need another mammogram or ultrasound scan.

Your doctor may suggest that you only have a breast ultrasound scan if you’re under the age of 35. This is because younger women have denser breasts, which means a mammogram is not as effective as ultrasound in detecting cancer.

Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce an image of the inside of your breasts, showing any lumps or abnormalities.

Your breast specialist may also suggest a breast ultrasound if they need to know whether a lump in your breast is solid or contains liquid.

Find out more about breast screening.

Diagnosis Of Breast Cancer

Diagnosis is the process of finding out the cause of a health problem. Diagnosing breast cancer usually begins when you find a lump in your breast or a screening mammography suggests a problem with the breast. Your doctor will ask you about any symptoms you have and do a physical exam. Based on this information, your doctor may refer you to a specialist or order tests to check for breast cancer or other health problems.

The process of diagnosis may seem long and frustrating. Its normal to worry, but try to remember that other health conditions can cause similar symptoms as breast cancer. Its important for the healthcare team to rule out other reasons for a health problem before making a diagnosis of breast cancer.

The following tests are usually used to rule out or diagnose breast cancer. Many of the same tests used to diagnose cancer are used to find out the stage . Your doctor may also order other tests to check your general health and to help plan your treatment.

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What If You Have Already Had Breast Cancer

What Is Breast Cancer

If you had early-stage breast cancer and have no signs that your cancer has returned, you may not need imaging or tumor marker tests. It is not likely that your cancer has returned. These tests usually do not help you live longer. And they can lead to a wrong diagnosis and unneeded treatments.

Usually, the best way to monitor your cancer is to have a mammogram each year and a physical exam every six months. And watch for symptoms, such as a new lump or pain in the breast. Studies show that most breast cancer that returns is found through symptoms, not imaging tests.

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How To Do A Breast Self

Step 1: Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.

Here’s what you should look for:

  • Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color
  • Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling

If you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor’s attention:

  • Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
  • A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple
  • Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling
Breast Self-Exam Step 1
Larger Version

Tests To Determine Specific Types Of Treatment

You’ll also need tests that show whether the cancer will respond to specific types of treatment.

The results of these tests can give your doctors a more complete picture of the type of cancer you have and how to treat it.

In some cases, breast cancer cells can be stimulated to grow by hormones that occur naturally in your body, such as oestrogen and progesterone.

If this is the case, the cancer may be treated by stopping the effects of the hormones or by lowering the level of these hormones in your body. This is known as hormone therapy.

During a hormone receptor test, a sample of cancer cells will be taken from your breast and tested to see if they respond to either oestrogen or progesterone.

If the hormone is able to attach to the cancer cells using a hormone receptor, they’re known as hormone-receptor positive.

While hormones can encourage the growth of some types of breast cancer, other types are stimulated by a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 .

These types of cancers can be diagnosed using a HER2 test and are treated with medicine that blocks the effects of HER2. This is known as targeted therapy.

Want to know more?

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Should Men Be Breast Aware Too

Breast cancer affects both men and women, because both men and women have breast tissue. Although it is uncommon, men can be diagnosed with breast cancer too. About 1 in 700 men are diagnosed with breast cancer. Last year alone over 30 Australian men lost their lives to breast cancer. If you are a man, and you notice any new and unusual changes in your breasts, it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible so that the changes can be examined by a health professional.

Anyone can get breast cancer. Men and women. Young and old. Breast cancer does not discriminate.

As everyone knows early detection makes all the differenceIve got no doubt that if Anni was diagnosed just 2 months before shed still be here Mark, NBCF Ambassador.

Three points to remember

  • Breast awareness is recommended for women of all ages. However, it does not replace having regular mammograms and other screening tests as recommended by your doctor.
  • Women and men can be diagnosed with breast cancer. Anybody can. For both men and women, if you notice any new or unusual changes in your breasts, see your doctor without delay.
  • Most breast changes are not due to cancer, but it is important to see your doctor to be sure. When in doubt, speak to your doctor.

Together, we can stop breast cancer

Help stop deaths from breast cancer, we cant do it without you.

What Should You Look For


Its not just lumps that you should be checking for. There are several other indicators of breast cancer that you can look out for too. Get in touch with your doctor if you notice one or a combination of the following changes in your breast:

  • Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
  • Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling
  • A nipple that has changed position
  • An inverted nipple
  • Clear or bloody fluid leaking from the nipple

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What Happens If I Find A Lump In My Breast

The first step is to call your primary care doctor or gynecologist, who can get you checked out. During this appointment, you will have a health history and the doctor will conduct a manual breast exam.

The doctor may also order breast imaging tests, such as an MRI or ultrasound. If you have not had a mammogram, one will be ordered and there may be additional imaging such as ultrasound or MRI. The diagnosis may also be confirmed with an MRI or even molecular breast imaging . You may also have a biopsy, which will remove a small sample of the breast tissue. That tiny sample will go to a lab to determine if there are cancer cells present. Its at that point that you will likely be referred to a breast specialist, oncologist, or breast surgeon.

Checking for breast cancer in the comfort of your home is easy. The more you examine your breasts, the easier it will be to detect any abnormalities that could be problematic. At Central Florida Cancer Care Center Radiation Oncology Consultants, P.A., we help women diagnosed with breast cancer to successfully treat and survive this disease. Talk to our practice at 407-203-2700 to find out more.

When Should You See A Doctor

After you know what your breasts normally look and feel like, any changes should be checked by a doctor. Changes may include:

  • Any new lump. It may or may not be painful to touch.
  • Unusual thick areas.
  • Sticky or bloody discharge from your nipples.
  • Any changes in the skin of your breasts or nipples, such as puckering or dimpling.
  • An unusual increase in the size of one breast.
  • One breast unusually lower than the other.

Remember that most breast problems or changes are caused by something other than cancer.

Even if you choose to do breast self-examinations, talk to your doctor about having regular mammograms as well as regular breast checkups at your doctor’s office or the mammogram centre.

Also Check: What Stage Is Metastatic Breast Cancer

‘screening Guidelines Might Have To Be Different’

In Canada, data on race or ethnicity and cancer isn’t collected, though Nnorom and other doctors say it’s needed to address gaps in our health-care system.

Such information could improve cancer prevention and treatment for Black and ethnic groups in Canada, said Dr. Mojola Omole, a surgical oncologist with Scarborough Health Network.

One stark example is highlighted by U.S. data that shows significant disparities between Black and white women when it comes to breast cancer particularly when it comes to mortality.

According to the American Cancer Society, Black women in the U.S. have the highest breast cancer death rate, despite a lower incidence rate of the disease compared to white women.

Research in the U.S. and U.K. also shows that Black women tend to have a more aggressive form of breast cancer and are often diagnosed at a younger age in comparison to white women.

Canadian screening guidelines for breast cancer vary from province to province, but often start at age 50, unless the patient is at risk, has a family history of the disease or a known gene mutation.

Gathering that data here could help inform or even change our current screening guidelines in Canada, said Omole.

“I do think our screening guidelines might have to be different, because we know some data that Black women present at an earlier stage,” she said. “So we might have to have a different approach.”

“All of those things currently aren’t being taken into consideration,” said Omole.


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