Early detection includes doing monthly breast self-exams, and scheduling regular clinical breast exams and mammograms. Learn more about different ways to increase chances for early detection.
Signs and Symptoms
Many people have different symptoms and some may not experience any symptoms at all. Most people who have symptoms will initially notice only one or two, and the presence of these symptoms doesn’t automatically mean that you have breast cancer. Some symptoms to look out for are:
A new lump in the breast or armpit
Thickening or swelling in area of the breast
Irritation of breast skin
Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast
Pain in the nipple area
Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
Any change in the size or the shape of the breast
Pain in any area of the breast
You will be able to easily identify any changes in your breasts by doing monthly self-exams. If you notice any unusual changes, be sure to contact your doctor right away.
Breast exams are performed by checking the breasts for signs and symptoms of the disease. A breast self-exam is an early detection tool with the use of physical and visual examinations of the breast and gets you familiarized with the way your breasts normally look and feel. Self-exams at least once a month will help you identify any changes such as a new lump or skin changes. This exam can be performed while standing in a mirror or lying down and using three fingers to press firmly on the breast and armpit area. Any changes that are discovered should be reported to your doctor as soon as possible.
A clinical breast exam is performed by a healthcare professional that is trained to recognize different types of abnormalities and warning signs. This is another important early detection tool because a professional may notice a spot on the breast that fails to register as a warning in the patient.
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast that allows a specialist to examine breast tissue. The breast is exposed to a small dose of ionizing radiation that produces an image of the breast tissue. Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early so it’ll be easier to treat before it gets big enough to feel symptoms. Regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer.
Mammograms are done by standing in front of a machine. The specialist will place your breast on a plastic plate and another plate will firmly press down on your breast from above. The plates will flatten the breast to hold it still while the x-ray is being taken. These steps are repeated to make a side view and the other breast will be done the same way. Having a mammogram may be uncomfortable and some find it painful, but it only takes a few moments and the discomfort is over.
It’s best not to get a mammogram before or during your period because your breasts may be tender or swollen. It’s also best not to wear any deodorant, perfumes, or powders because these products can show up as white spots on the x-rays. You will need to undress from the waist up when getting a mammogram, so wear a top and bottom is advised than wearing a dress.