How To Check For Breast Cancer
Doru Paul, MD, is triple board-certified in medical oncology, hematology, and internal medicine. He is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and attending physician in the Department of Hematology and Oncology at the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center.
It’s important that every woman knows how to do a breast self-examination , as it can help in early detection of breast cancer, such as lumps, nipple changes, and more.
Being familiar with what is normal for you will make it easier to recognize any new developments. Furthermore, knowing what’s not normal for anyone can help prompt you to bring such issues to your doctor’s attention, should you notice them during your BSE.
This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.
How Should I Check My Breasts
Take the time to get to know how your breasts normally look and feel through normal regular activities .
You dont need to use a special technique, but ensure you look at and feel your breasts regularly. Make sure this includes all parts of your breast, your armpit and up to your collarbone.
For women of all ages, it is recommended that you be breast aware. Breast awareness is being familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts, so that you can identify any unusual changes .
What To Do If You Notice Something Askew
Don’t panic. Changes in breast tissue, including lumps and dimpling, are often benign . In fact, eight out of 10 lumps are not cancerous. Changes may occur from hormonal fluctuations, cysts, calcification or another benign breast condition. You should make an appointment with your doctor for further evaluation to rule out breast cancer or another health condition that requires treatment.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
You May Like: Breast Cancer Stage 3a Prognosis
If You Have A Normal Result
You will receive a letter to let you know your mammogram does not show any signs of cancer. Your next screening appointment will be in 3 years time. Do contact your GP or local screening unit if you havent received an appointment and think you are due one.
It is important to see your GP If you notice any symptoms between your screening mammograms.
Where To Get Screened
Women ages 50 to 74 can call the nearest Ontario Breast Screening Program location to make an appointment .
Women in the North West and Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant regions may be eligible for screening in one of our mobile screening coaches.
If you think you may be at high risk for breast cancer, talk to your doctor about a referral to the High Risk Ontario Breast Screening Program based on family or medical history.
Also Check: Stage 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma
How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed
Magnetic resonance imaging may be used to diagnose breast cancer.
Doctors often use additional tests to find or diagnose breast cancer. They may refer women to a breast specialist or a surgeon. This does not mean that she has cancer or that she needs surgery. These doctors are experts in diagnosing breast problems.
- Breast ultrasound. A machine that uses sound waves to make pictures, called sonograms, of areas inside the breast.
- Diagnostic mammogram. If you have a problem in your breast, such as lumps, or if an area of the breast looks abnormal on a screening mammogram, doctors may have you get a diagnostic mammogram. This is a more detailed X-ray of the breast.
- Breast magnetic resonance imaging . A kind of body scan that uses a magnet linked to a computer. The MRI scan will make detailed pictures of areas inside the breast.
- Biopsy. This is a test that removes tissue or fluid from the breast to be looked at under a microscope and do more testing. There are different kinds of biopsies .
Can I Get Treatment For Breast Cancer If I Don’t Have Insurance
Women in need of treatment for breast cancer may be eligible for coverage through the New York State Medicaid Cancer Treatment Program . Coverage lasts for the entire time you are being treated and includes medications.
To learn if you are eligible for this program or to get more information, visit the NYS MCTP website.
Also Check: Stage 3 Carcinoma Cancer
What To Do If You Find A Lump
Dont panic if you think you feel a lump in your breast. Most women have some lumps or lumpy areas in their breasts all the time, and most breast lumps turn out to be benign . There are a number of possible causes of non-cancerous breast lumps, including normal hormonal changes, a benign breast condition, or an injury.
Dont hesitate to call your doctor if youve noticed a lump or other breast change that is new and worrisome. This is especially true for changes that last more than one full menstrual cycle or seem to get bigger or more prominent in some way. If you menstruate, you may want to wait until after your period to see if the lump or other breast change disappears on its own before calling your doctor. The best healthcare provider to call would be one who knows you and has done a breast exam on you before for example, your gynecologist, primary care doctor, or a nurse practitioner who works with your gynecologist or primary care doctor.
Make sure you get answers. Its important that your doctor gives you an explanation of the cause of the lump or other breast change and, if necessary, a plan for monitoring it or treating it. If youre not comfortable with the advice of the first doctor you see, dont hesitate to get a second opinion.
Other Screening Tests Have Been Or Are Being Studied In Clinical Trials
Studies have been done to find out if the following breast cancer screening tests are useful in finding breast cancer or helping women with breast cancer live longer.
A clinical breast exam is an exam of the breast by a doctor or other health professional. He or she will carefully feel the breasts and under the arms for lumps or anything else that seems unusual. It is not known if having clinical breast exams decreases the chance of dying from breast cancer.
Breast self-exams may be done by women or men to check their breasts for lumps or other changes. If you feel any lumps or notice any other changes in your breasts, talk to your doctor. Doing regular breast self-exams has not been shown to decrease the chance of dying from breast cancer.
Thermography is a procedure in which a special camera that senses heat is used to record the temperature of the skin that covers the breasts. Tumors can cause temperature changes that may show up on the thermogram.
There have been no randomized clinical trials of thermography to find out how well it detects breast cancer or the harms of the procedure.
Breast tissue sampling is taking cells from breast tissue to check under a microscope.Breast tissue sampling as a screening test has not been shown to decrease the risk of dying from breast cancer.
Recommended Reading: Stage Three Cancer
How Often Should I Get A Mammogram
In general, women should have a yearly clinical breast examination by a doctor beginning at age 20 and start having annual mammograms beginning at age 40.
BreastScreen Australia offers free mammograms to women aged between 40 and 74 years. If you experience any breast symptoms or unusual changes, see your doctor without delay.
If you have a strong family history or you are concerned that you may have an increased risk of breast cancer, always talk to your doctor. Your doctor will help you assess and manage your breast cancer risk and will advise of any additional precautions or screening you may require.
Mammograms are not recommended for male breast cancer screening in Australia. However, other tools to check include a clinical breast examination, an ultrasound and a biopsy.
How To Perform A Breast Cancer Self
1. Simply look at your breasts in the mirror. Look from different angles, with your arms down and then raised.
What you should see:
- Breasts that are smooth and don’t show any visible signs of distortion
- The usual size, shape and color of your breasts
Signs to look out for:
- Changes in skin texture, such as dimpling, puckering or bulging
- Changes in the position of either nipple
- Any redness, splotches or other signs of a rash
- Abnormal swelling
- Any signs of fluid coming from either nipple
2. Feel your breasts while lying down, and then again while standing up. Using the pads of your first two or three fingers, make circular motions about the size of a quarter along the entire surface of your breasts and near your armpit. Use light, medium and firm pressure to feel the different layers of tissue.
What you should feel:
- The usual consistency of your breasts
- Whatever is “normal” in the different regions of your breasts
Signs to look out for:
- Lumps or hard masses in your breast tissue
- Thickening or fullness that feels different than the surrounding tissue
- Unusual warmth
- A nipple that has become inverted
Self-breast exams aren’t a surefire way to detect breast cancer — only medical testing, such as mammograms, can do that — but they can help you become more familiar with your breasts and, as such, more aware of any changes.
Also Check: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Grade 3 Treatment
What To Expect From A Mammogram
During a mammogram, you will stand in front of a special X-ray machine. A doctor will place your breast on a clear plastic plate. Another plate will firmly press your breast from above. The plates will flatten the breast, holding it still while the X-ray is being taken. Having a mammogram is a bit uncomfortable for most women. Some women even find it painful, especially if their breasts are sensitive. But, it only takes only a few moments, and then the discomfort is over.
There Are Ways To Find Low
If you dont have health insurance, dont assume that means you cant get screened. There may be more ways to get good, affordable health care than you think. Each October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, many mammography centers offer mammograms at reduced rates. Year round, there are organizations working to help women get screened whatever their financial and insurance status.
Getting screened for breast cancer is a crucial part of breast healthbut its not enough on its own. Heres everything you should know to take charge of your breast health.
Recommended Reading: Estrogen Positive Progesterone Negative Breast Cancer
Where Can I Go To Get Screened
You can get screened for breast cancer at a clinic, hospital, or doctors office. If you want to be screened for breast cancer, call your doctors office. They can help you schedule an appointment.
Most health insurance plans are required to cover screening mammograms every one to two years for women beginning at age 40 with no out-of-pocket cost .
Are you worried about the cost? CDC offers free or low-cost mammograms. Find out if you qualify.
Breast Cancer Is The Second Leading Cause Of Death From Cancer In American Women
Breast cancer is more likely to occur as a woman ages. It occurs more often in White women than in Black women, but Black women die from breast cancer more often than White women.
Breast cancer rarely occurs in men. Because men with breast cancer usually have a lump that can be felt, screening tests are not likely to be helpful.
Also Check: Estrogen Receptive Breast Cancer Prognosis
How To Get Brca Genetic Testing
Genetic counseling is recommended for those who are interested in being tested for breast cancer gene mutations. You can talk to a doctor about getting a referral to a genetic counselor, who can help determine whether genetic testing would make sense based on family history and risk factors. Since many genetic tests only look for one specific gene mutation, the counselor can often help determine which mutations to test for.
The genetic test itself simply involves taking a small sample of blood or saliva, which is sent to a lab for analysis. Results can take several weeks or months.
Genetic testing results are not always clear-cut:
- A test result can be positive, meaning that the patient does carry the gene mutation.
- A negative test result indicates that they do not have that particular known gene mutation. It does not, however, rule out the possibility of having mutations in other genes. It also does not rule out the possibility of developing breast cancer. Most breast cancer cases are not hereditary, so everyone should still have an early detection plan.
- Genetic test results can also be uncertain or ambiguous. An ambiguous test result means that a mutation has been found on the gene, but it is not yet known whether that particular mutation has any effect on the chances of developing breast cancer.
- Someone is either negative or positive. Over time, a person cannot go from being negative to being positive or vice versa for the specific gene mutations they were tested for.
What Does A Lump 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.
Read Also: What Is Stage 3b Breast Cancer
How Common Are Breast Cancer Gene Mutations
Breast cancer gene mutations arent common in the general population, Dr. Eng says, but they are common in people who have breast cancer. About 10% to 15% of people with breast cancer have one of the breast cancer gene mutations.
You can inherit these gene mutations from either of your biological parents, and the cancers theyre linked to can affect both men and women so consider all your relatives when thinking about your family history.
Apps And Tools To Help With Breast Cancer Self
If you’re having trouble remembering the usual look and feel of your breasts, try making a “map” to log the different colors and consistencies of your breast tissue. These apps and tools can help with your breast cancer self-exams and keep you on track.
Keep a Breast: Provided by the Keep A Breast Foundation, this app helps you establish a regular routine for self breast checks. You can set a date to get a monthly push reminder and the app guides you through your self-exam each time.
Know Your Lemons: This app is designed to improve early detection by offering self-exam instructions, quizzes, symptoms, screening tools and more. It even allows you to calculate your own personal level of risk of breast cancer.
B4BC: This app from Boarding for Breast Cancer teaches you how to perform a self breast exam, allows you to set a schedule that’s in sync with your menstrual cycle and provides resources like educational content, healthy recipes and wellness tips.
Pink Luminous Breast Light: This handheld tool from the Pink Luminous Advocacy Project intends to make self-exams for breast cancer easier and more effective. It uses LED technology to identify lumps, dark spots, clusters and other signs you may not be able to see with your eyes or feel with your fingers. This tool does not replace screenings with a doctor, but can increase the likelihood of early detection.
Also Check: Type 3 Cancer
What Your Breast Cancer Genetic Tests Results Mean
Having a positive genetic test result doesnt mean youll get cancer. It means you have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than people without the mutation.
- Women without breast cancer gene mutations have a 12% lifetime risk of breast cancer.
- Women with a BRCA mutation have up to an 80% lifetime risk of breast cancer.
- Women with the PTEN mutation have an 85% lifetime risk.
- Men with the BRCA2 mutation have about an 8% lifetime risk, 80 times greater than males without the mutation.
Even if you get tested and get a negative result, dont skip mammograms or other health screenings, and continue to follow the American Cancer Societys guidelines.
Most cases of breast cancer arent hereditary, says Dr. Eng. A negative result means you dont have the known gene mutations for breast cancer. But you can still get breast cancer.
For Women Who Have Had Mantle Radiation:
- a clinical breast exam every six months beginning at the time of your radiation treatment
- an annual mammogram starting eight years after your radiation treatment
- possible annual breast MRI
All women at above-average breast cancer risk should speak with their doctor about additional screening tests, perform a monthly self breast exam, and become familiar with their breasts so they are better able to notice changes.
MSK offers a comprehensive program for women at increased breast cancer risk, including regular breast exams and imaging. It allows any developments to be identified and dealt with right away.
Recommended Reading: Stage 3a Cancer Lymph Nodes
A Cancer Prevention Plan For Women
Finding cancer early improves your chances of successful treatment and long-term survival.
- lumps, sores or ulcers that don’t heal
- unusual changes in your breasts lumps, thickening, unusual discharge, nipples that suddenly turn inwards, changes in shape, colour or unusual pain
- coughs that don’t go away, show blood, or a hoarseness that persists
- weight loss that can’t be explained
- any loss of blood, even a few spots between periods or after they stop
- moles that have changed shape, size or colour, or an inflamed skin sore that hasn’t healed
- blood in a bowel motion
- persistent changes in toilet habits
- persistent abdominal pain or bloating.
Symptoms often relate to more common, less serious health problems. However, if you notice any unusual changes, or symptoms persist, visit your doctor.