What Should You Look For In Your Breasts
Be aware of any new or unusual changes in your breasts. If you notice any signs or symptoms of breast cancer , see your doctor immediately.
Sign or symptoms of breast cancer will depend on where the tumour is, the size of the tumour and how quickly it is growing in the breast. For example, some women will not have any symptoms and the breast cancer is found during a screening mammogram .
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If You Have A Higher Risk Of Breast Cancer
Routine breast cancer screening is important for anyone with breasts, but even more so for those at higher risk. Work with your doctor to look at your individual risk factors and discuss what screening tests are right for you. If you and your doctor find that you have a higher risk of breast cancer, you may need to be screened earlier and more often than average. You might also benefit from breast MRI screening along with regular mammograms.
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Who Should Have A Regular Screening Mammogram
The biggest risk factors for developing breast cancer are being a woman and getting older. BreastScreen Australia targets women aged 50 to 74, as 75% of all breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50.
- Screening mammograms are often less reliable for women under 40 years of age. The density of breast tissue in younger women often makes it difficult to detect cancers on mammograms.
- All women aged 40 to 49 years who have no breast symptoms also have free access to the BreastScreen Australia program should they choose to a have a screening mammogram.
- All women aged 50 to 74 years are encouraged to have a free mammogram every two years through BreastScreen Australia.
- Women aged 75 and over who have no breast symptoms also have free access to the BreastScreen Australia program. They should discuss whether to have a mammogram with their doctor.
Diagnosis Of Breast Cancer
There are multiple ways to check for breast cancer. It can be successfully treated if it is detected earlier and appropriately treated. These are among the most effective and popular tests for diagnosing breast cancer:
Breast examination It is an examination of the breasts which allows the doctor to examine the tissue of your breast for lumps. In addition, the doctor will inspect the breasts and the lymph nodes that line the armpit for any abnormalities.
A mammogram is an x-ray image test to determine the breasts. These tests help detect any growth abnormalities within the breast tissue.
Ultrasound tests use high-frequency sound waves that produce images of the inner structure inside the breast. The test can effectively reveal any abnormal mass or lump within the breast.
Biopsy: The surgeon will employ a minimally-invasive surgical technique to remove a tiny amount of the cancerous tissue suspected from the breast. The attendant will send the breast tissue sample will later be sent to a pathology lab for a thorough analysis.
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What Happens If Something Is Detected On My Screening Exam
Lumps, other abnormalities or questionable findings in the breast are often detected by screening tests. However, it is not always possible to tell from these imaging tests whether a finding is benign or cancerous. To determine whether there is a cancer present, your doctor may recommend that one or more of the following imaging tests may be performed:
- diagnostic mammography
- breast ultrasound
- breast MRI
If a finding is proven to be benign by its appearance on these exams, no further steps may need to be taken. If these tests do not clearly show that the finding is benign, a biopsy may be necessary. In a biopsy, a small amount of tissue is removed under local anesthesia so that it can be examined in a laboratory. One of the following image-guided procedures is used during a breast biopsy:
A pathologist examines the removed tissue specimen and makes a final diagnosis. Depending on the facility, the radiologist or your referring physician will share the results with you.
With early detection and improved treatments, more women are surviving breast cancer. If cancer is diagnosed, your doctor will discuss your treatment options and together you will determine your course of treatment. Today, women have more treatment options than ever before. For more information on treatment, see the Breast Cancer Treatment page.
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.
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American Cancer Society Breast Self Exam Instructions
The best time for breast self examination is about a week after your period ends, when your breasts are not swollen or tender. If you are not having regular periods, do BSE on the same day every month.
- Lie down with a pillow under your right shoulder and place your right arm behind your head.
- Use the finger pads of the three middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps in the right breast.
- Press firmly enough to know how your breast feels. A firm ridge in the lower curve of each breast is normal. If you’re not sure how hard to press, talk with your doctor or nurse.
- Move around the breast in a circular, up and down line, or wedge pattern. Be sure to do it the same way every time, check the entire breast area, and remember how your breast feels from month to month.
- Repeat the exam on your left breast, using the finger pads of the right hand.
- If you find any changes, see your doctor right away.
- Repeat the examination of both breasts while standing, with one arm behind your head. The upright position makes it easier to check the upper and outer part of the breasts . This is where about half of breast cancers are found. You may want to do the standing part of the BSE while you are in the shower. Some breast changes can be felt more easily when your skin is wet and soapy.
- Right after your BSE, check your breasts in front of a mirror for any dimpling of the skin, changes in the nipple, redness, or swelling.
How Do I Take Care Of My Breasts
The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to be breast aware from the age of 20. This means knowing how your breasts normally look and feel and regularly checking for any unusual changes.
Your breasts may feel heavy or tender before your period, so the best time to check is after your period finishes, once any discomfort has settled down. Show your doctor if you have any unusual symptoms that don’t go away after your period, particularly if you can feel a lump, or thickened tissue in your breast, or notice a discharge or any skin or nipple changes. Of course, most changes are not caused by breast cancer but its important to have any new changes properly checked.
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Keeping Track Of Your Mammograms
One of the reasons regular mammograms are so helpful is that they allow the radiologist who inspects them to note any changes in your breast over time. If you move or change physicians, you need to make sure that you know where your past mammograms are stored. Keep a list showing the dates of your mammograms and the place where each was performed. It is important to obtain the films from the previous facilities so that they are available to the radiologist when you have your next mammogram.
Your doctor may recommend that you take additional steps to protect your health if you know that you are at high risk for breast cancer. He or she may recommend that you undergo screening tests, such as mammography, before the recommended age of 40. Some doctors may also recommend that you have a magnetic resonance image taken of your breast. This technique uses magnetic fields to create a detailed picture of breast tissue. No X-rays are involved.
If you have a family history of breast cancer, you may want to consider undergoing genetic testing to see if you have a mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Deciding whether to undergo this type of testing is a complex process. A genetic counselor can help you to consider all the arguments for and against testing.
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.
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What To Do If You Discover The Lump
Do not be concerned if you notice the lump in your breast during your self-examination. Most women experience bumps on their breasts that are not cancerous . In addition, the hormonal effects of benign breast issues or even injuries can trigger benign growth.
Get medical attention If you feel that the lump is distinct from the rest of your breast. Consider this option when the lump persists for more than an entire menstrual cycle and increases in size. For example, if you are currently on your period, you could delay your period to determine whether the lump shrinks before visiting your doctor.
If You Have A Gene Mutation
If you have had tests that showed a change in a gene that increases the risk of breast cancer, the recommendations are slightly different.
UK guidelines recommend yearly MRI scans from:
- age 20 for women with a TP53 mutation
- age 30 for women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation
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Who Has Breast Screening
Each year more than 2 million women have breast cancer screening in the UK. The NHS Breast Screening Programme invites all women from the age of 50 to 70 for screening every 3 years. This means that some people may not have their first screening mammogram until they are 52 or 53 years.
In some parts of England, the screening programme has been inviting women from 47 to 73 years old as part of a trial.
If you are older than 70, you can still have screening every 3 years but you won’t automatically be invited. To make an appointment, talk to your GP or your local breast screening unit.
If you are younger than 50, your risk of breast cancer is generally very low. Mammograms are more difficult to read in younger women because their breast tissue is denser. So the patterns on the mammogram don’t show up as well. There is little evidence to show that regular mammograms for women below the screening age would reduce deaths from breast cancer.
Breast screening is also for some trans or non-binary people. Talk to your GP or Gender Identity Clinic about this.
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.
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Should I Go For Breast Screening
Its important that you have access to enough information about the benefits and harms of breast screening to make the decision.
You can talk to your own doctor or nurse. Or you can contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
‘i Wish I Could Thank Sarah’
I know it sounds stupid but it really was like suddenly Sarah was saying to me, Check it out.
So I went down to the doctors and she referred me straightway for further investigations.
Jeans operation went well and she is hoping to receive the all-clear from doctors this week.
She added: I was told if I had left it much longer it would have spread into the lymph nodes and I would have had much less chance of survival.
I wish I could thank Sarah. I hope that my story will help push other people to get themselves checked out as well.
In her biography Hear Me Out, she told how she initially put off getting medical advice when she first found lumps under her arm in December 2019.
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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.
Is Family History Of Breast Cancer Important
Yes. While only 5-10% of all women diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history, it is important to know your family’s history of cancer, if any, both on your mother’s side and your father’s side. Women with at least one close family relative should start a screening program with a breast specialist when they are ten years younger than their relative’s age at diagnosis, but usually not before 20 years old.
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At What Age Should I Start Getting Mammograms
Because young women typically have dense breast tissue, a mammogram is not always the best diagnostic tool for them. For this reason, and because dense breasts also make it more difficult to feel a lump, it is crucial that women aged 20 and older become familiar with their breasts and learn how to spot any unusual changes. Current guidelines call for annual screening mammograms to begin at age 45 or 50. If you have a family history of the disease, consult your doctor about when you should start having mammograms and how frequently you should have them. For more information, read our position paper on the new mammography guidelines.
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.
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