When Was The Last Time You Did A Breast Self Check
I dont share these stories to scare you into thinking you have breast cancer I share them to remind you that there is more to check for than just lumps and bumps.
Dr Samriti Sood recently reminded us of what to look for when doing a breast check and it was as simple as: Look. Feel. Move.
Look for dimples, divots, lumps, and any changes around the nipple or in the skin. Feel your breasts using the flat surface of your hand and stroke towards the nipple. Move your arms up, look under and to the side to check for anything that is not normalfor you. Dr Sood also suggests that doing breast checks regularly, on different days of your cycle is best. If you notice something unusual, get checked.
And dont shy away from self breast checking if you have breast implants. It is A-OK to self breast check when you have implants. In fact, its a good idea to get your implants checked at a clinic or specialist regularly. You can also have mammogramswith breast implants, just be sure to tell the mammographer.
All the women in these stories knew their bodies and what was normal for them. They took action when things werent right and they want you to do the same thing.
For support and information about being at increased risk for developing cancer, visit Pink Hope.
Feature Image: Supplied.
How To Perform A Male Self
A person can perform the following steps:
Does Breast Cancer Hurt
Most breast cancers dont cause pain. Breast pain, or mastalgia, is more likely related a persons menstrual cycle if they have one. There are other benign conditions that can cause breast pain, such as cysts, fibroadenomas, or blocked milk ducts.
Breast cancer in early stages usually isnt painful. Breast cancer typically doesnt hurt until/if it becomes advanced. The majority of tumors wont begin causing pain until they reach two centimeters in size, and even then, some may not cause pain.
Inflammatory breast cancer, a rare but aggressive form of breast cancer, can cause pain and present along with redness, a rash, and severe itching.
Remember, a painful lump doesnt necessarily rule out cancer. If breast pain is severe or persists, you should consult your physician. They will be able to determine if it is being caused by cancer or another condition.
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Is A Breast Lump Always Noticeable
A lump might feel different, depending on several factors, such as breast size and age . To the eye, the breast may look different, the contours may change, or you may notice an obvious lump or swelling. You might notice visible changes, such as fluid leaking from the nipple, rashes or redness, but could also experience breast pain, which might not have an obvious cause.
As for whether early signs of breast cancer are always visibly noticeable, some people do not even notice they have a lump, but their cancer can be detected by a screening test later during normal breast screening in the UK.
However, your doctor can talk you through how to self-examine your breasts – plus, there are online tutorials and graphics to guide you through.
What Is A Fibroadenoma
Fibroadenomas are solid, smooth, firm, noncancerous lumps that are most commonly found in women in their 20s and 30s. They are the most common benign lumps in women and can occur at any age. They are increasingly being seen in postmenopausal women who are taking hormone therapy.
The painless lump feels rubbery and moves around freely. You may find one yourself. Fibroadenomas vary in size and can grow anywhere in the breast tissue.
A lump-like swelling in the breast that may or may not be painful is the most common symptom of male breast cancer. A lump or thickening may be near the breast or in the underarm area. One side of the chest may appear bulkier than the other. Although most men diagnosed with breast cancer are older than 65 years, breast cancer can appear in younger men. Other common signs and symptoms may include:
- A change in the size or shape of the nipples
- Men with breast cancer usually have lumps that can be felt
- A dimple or puckering in the skin around the nipple
- A nipple turned inward
- Fluid discharge from the nipple, especially if itâs bloody
- Scaly, red, or swollen skin on the breast, nipple, or areola
- Dimples in the breast that looks like the skin of an orange, called peau dorange
- Sometimes breast cancer can spread and cause swelling under the arm or around the collar bone even before the original tumor in the breast becomes big enough to be felt
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A Note About Sex And Gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms male, female, or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. .
Nobodys breasts are the same, and how they look and feel may change throughout the menstrual cycle.
Many conditions and medications could cause lumps in the breast. These
2020 article , a cancerous breast lump is painless, hard, and has uneven edges. It may also fix itself to underlying tissue such as the chest wall. This means it will not move when someone prods it.
When a person sees or feels a change in their breast, be it a new lump or skin dimpling, they should consult a doctor who will physically examine the breast. To learn more about the lump, the doctor usually request a mammogram or ultrasound.
What Causes Breast Cancer
Breast cancer happens when there are changes in the genetic material . Often, the exact cause of these genetic changes is unknown.
But sometimes these genetic changes are inherited, meaning that you are born with them. Breast cancer that is caused by inherited genetic changes is called hereditary breast cancer.
Besides genetics, your lifestyle and the environment can affect your risk of breast cancer.
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Bottom Line: Get Checked
Even if a lump youve detected feels squishy or unformed, its still a good plan to get it checked out, says Smith. Thats because you may not always be able to feel a cancerous mass since it may be forming deeper in the breast. You may also have other issues that should be examined, such as a .
Your doctor will likely do a physical exam, as well as recommend a , which is more involved than a screening mammogram and involves additional views of the breast, as well as imaging like ultrasound and sometimes MRI.
Another important tip: Dont skip the regular self-exams. Knowing whats normal for you is a crucial part of detecting changes. These exams should include both a visual check and different types of pressure on the breast tissue, and Smith says you may notice subtle shifts as you age as well, such as thickening of the skin, new moleswhich should prompt a dermatology appointmentand areas of sensitivity.
Even if you have the squishy, non-cancerous type of lumps, its a good idea to get seen anyway, she adds. Its incredibly important to detect problems early, so when in doubt, see your health provider.
How Often Should You Check Your Breasts
You should check your breasts regularly, even if you have not felt a lump in the past. Checking your breasts every two weeks, or up to once a month, helps you identify what feels normal to you and makes it easier to notice when something is out of the ordinary.
It’s advised to check them on the same day each month, around a week after your period. The process shouldn’t take long but be sure that you are thorough.
You can self-examine by standing in front of a mirror, but a good tip is to do it in the shower. Checking your breasts might be easier in the shower or bath, as lumps and bumps can be easier to identify when the skin is moist.
What you are looking for is a difference from last month’s examination. Therefore, you should know the layout and normal feeling of your own breasts. If it helps, you could draw a diagram, so you know where any lumps or grooves already sit.
How to check for breast cancer and what a lump feels like
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Appearance With A Biopsy
When a breast biopsy is done, tissue is removed and sent to a pathologist. They will look at it under a microscope. Usually, special genetic studies are done as well.
The pathologist looks at the size and shape of the cells, as well as their arrangement if the tissue sample was taken by using a core needle biopsy. That’s also true for an open biopsy done by making a cut through the skin to remove the sample.
How Painful Is A Breast Biopsy
You will be awake during your biopsy and should have little discomfort. Many women report little pain and no scarring on the breast. However, certain patients, including those with dense breast tissue or abnormalities near the chest wall or behind the nipple, may be more sensitive during the procedure.
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How Does Breast Cancer Develop
Dr Cooke says there are many reasons why breast cancer develops, which include modifiable risk factors .
Modifiable risk factors include:
- Excessive alcohol consumption .
- Physical inactivity.
“Taking the combined contraceptive pill increases the risk of breast cancer very slightly . Using hormone replacement therapy , particularly if it is a combined HRT preparation and used for longer than five years, can also increase the risk of breast cancer. The current opinion is HRT taken for five years or fewer does not significantly increase breast cancer risk,” Dr Cooke adds.
As for non-modifiable risk factors of breast cancer, these are things beyond an individual’s control. They include:
- Family history of breast cancer.
- Family genetic mutations .
- Increasing age.
- Starting your periods before the age of 12, and going through menopause at a later age.
- History of previous breast cancer.
Dr Cooke explains that those who have not given birth to children have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer2.
Studies also suggest that women who are older than 30 when they give birth to their first child have a higher risk of breast cancer than women who have never given birth3. But, those who have never given birth can also have an increased risk of developing breast cancer compared with those who have children during their twenties4.
Less Common Breast Cancers
Some less common types of breast cancer include:
- Triple-negative breast cancer: The name refers to cancer cells that do not contain estrogen or progesterone receptors and produce little HER2 protein. As a result, the cancer does not respond to hormone therapy. Both lobular and ductal carcinomas can be triple-negative.
- Inflammatory breast cancer: This develops when cancer cells block lymph vessels within the skin of the breast, causing the breast to swell.
- Phyllodes tumors: These develop within the connective tissues of the breast. While most are benign, some are cancerous.
- Pagets disease: This type of cancer starts in the breast ducts and spreads to the nipple.
- Angiosarcoma of the breast: This type of cancer starts in blood or lymph vessels and can affect the breast tissue.
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How Can You Tell If A Breast Lump Is Cancerous
What does a cancerous breast lump feel like?
What Causes Breast Lumps
As part of understanding what type of lumps occur in the breasts, its useful to know why they occur in the first place. In addition to cancer, there are several other reasons lumps might appear. Breast lumps are very common, especially for women in their teens and 20s because thats when significant hormonal changes are occurring, says Dr. Grumley. And women in their mid-30s to age 50 are more prone to cysts, which are fluid-filled sacs in the breast.
Although its not yet known why breast cysts form, she adds that hormones are believed to play a major role there, too. Other causes include , benign growths called fibroadenomas and fatty deposits called lipomas. There are also lymph nodes or glands, which are part of the lymphatic system that runs throughout the body, including in the chest and armpits. Because theyre involved with the immune response, these glands filter potentially harmful substances, and can become inflamed if you have an infection. When that happens, it may cause a temporary lump or series of lumps.
Both benign and can happen anywhere in the breast, Dr. Grumley says, including or higher up on the chest.
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Causes Of Breast Cancer
Certain genes control the life cyclethe growth, function, division, and deathof a cell. When these genes are damaged, the balance between normal cell growth and death is lost. Normal breast cells become cancerous because of changes in DNA structure. Breast cancer is caused by cellular DNA damage that leads to out-of-control cell growth.
Causes of Breast Cancer: Genetics & Mutations
Inherited genes can increase the likelihood of breast cancer. For example, mutations of genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 can inhibit the bodys ability to safeguard and repair DNA. Copies of these mutated genes can be passed on genetically to future generations, leading to a genetically-inherited increased risk of cancer.
Causes of Breast Cancer: Lifestyle
Lifestyle choices can lead to breast cancer as well. Eating a poor diet, inactivity, obesity, heavy alcohol use, tobacco use including smoking, and exposure to chemicals and toxins are all associated with a greater breast cancer risk.
Causes of Breast Cancer: Medical Treatment
Medical treatment with chemotherapy, radiation, or immunosuppressive drugs used to decrease the spread of cancer throughout the body can also cause damage to healthy cells. Some second cancers, completely separate from the initial cancer, have been known to occur following aggressive cancer treatments. Radiation theraspy to the chest to treat other conditions or cancers also increases the risk of developing breast cancer.
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Signs Your Breast Lump Is Cancer
One major way to tell if a lump is malignant or benign is whether it sticks around, adds Smith. For example, an inflamed lymph node may go back to normal once its done dealing with the invaders in your immune system. Or a cyst might fill with fluid a few days before your menstrual cycle and then disappear once your period arrives.
Along with texture and whether the lump remains over time, another sign that may indicate whether its benign is pain or soreness. Smith says breast cancer lumps are sometimes painful, but not usually. So, if you have tenderness or a sharp pain when pressing on the lump, thats likely to be a different issue than cancer.
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Will My Doctor Call Me With Ultrasound Results
You may be told the results of your scan soon after its been carried out, but in most cases the images will need to be analysed and a report will be sent to the doctor who referred you for the scan. Theyll discuss the results with you a few days later or at your next appointment, if ones been arranged.
What Complications Are Associated With Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Treatment for IBC can bring its own set of complications, such as lymphedema after removal of lymph nodes.
Because IBC develops so quickly, the condition has usually spread to other tissues by the time it is diagnosed. This metastasis can create a need for additional treatment to other areas of the body. IBC is also more likely to recur compared to other forms of breast cancer.
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Breast Cancer Symptoms: What You Need To Know
Finding breast cancer early usually makes it easier to treat. Along with getting regular screening mammograms, being aware of how your breasts look and feel is an important part of early detection. Some breast cancer signs are detected best by mammogram. Other signs may be more eaily seen as changes in how the breasts look or feel.
It is important to know that not all changes in the breasts are cancer. Benign breast conditions are much more common than breast cancer. But it is important to let your health care team know about any changes in your breast so they can be looked into.
Below are some common breast symptoms that should be checked right away.
What Is The Staging For Breast Cancer
Stage I and II breast cancers
- Early-stage localized breast cancer
- Tumor is less than 2 cm in size and is node negative
- Stage II tumors have spread to the axillary lymph nodes and/or a tumor size larger than 2 cm but smaller than 5 cm
Stage III breast cancers
- Locally advanced breast cancer
- Large breast tumors
- Extensive axillary lymph node involvement , nodal involvement of both axillary and internal mammary nodes at diagnosis, or nodal involvement of the soft tissues above or below the collarbone
- A tumor is also considered to be stage III if it extends to underlying muscles of the chest wall or the overlying skin
- Inflammatory breast cancer is at least stage III even if it is small and does not involve lymph nodes
Stage IV breast cancer
- Metastatic breast cancer
- Tumors have spread to areas outside the breast and lymph nodes to the bones, lungs, liver, or other organs
- The primary tumor in the breast may be any size, and there can be any number of affected lymph nodes
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