YEARLY BREAST EXAMS
You should get a breast exam every one to three years if you are under age 39, and every year if you are older than 40. Breast exams can be done at the same time you get your pap smear.
During your breast exam, your doctor will check for any lumps or cancers. But you must help your doctor detect anything that does not seem right with your breasts. So, every month, right after your period, while you are in the shower, you should do your own breast exam. Ask your doctor to show you how. Let your doctor know if anyone in your family has had breast cancer. This will let the doctor know if you need to have any extra tests.
Remember, not all lumps are cancer. Normal breasts can have lumps too. If you have tenderness and lumpiness in both breasts that gets better after your menstrual cycle, this is most likely normal.
But, if you ever find anything that does not feel quite right, you should go to your doctor to make sure you do not have breast cancer. Warning signs that you should look for are; bleeding from the nipple, a lump that does not go away, an orange peel appearance of the skin on your breast, or dimpling of the skin on your breast.
BREAST CANCER EARLY DETECTION SIGNS
Many women have lumpy breasts and breast size and shape changes throughout the month. So keep in mind that not all lumps are breast cancer. Get to know your breasts by doing monthly breast exams. Some early signs of breast cancer are:
-Breast cancer lumps are usually firm and painless.
-An area in the armpit or on the breast might become swollen and red
-The surface of the breast might start pitting or dimpling
-The nipple may invert
-Veins may become more visible on the breast
-Fluid, other than breast milk might start to leak out of the nipple
-The texture of the skin might change
-Your breasts might itch
FACTORS THAT PUT YOU AT RISK FOR DEVELOPING BREAST CANCER
50% of all breast cancers are diagnosed in women over the age of 50, and over 80% of all women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history of breast cancer.
If You Started Having Periods Early or Stopped Having Periods Late.
Both of these instances will increase your risk of developing breast cancer.
If You Have a Family History of Breast Cancer. Family history does not count if it was your counsin’s uncle’s wife’s sister. Family history includes mothers, sisters and daughters.
If An Immediate Relative Developed Breast Cancer Before Menopause Hit, Your Risk Is Increased Even Further.
If You Have Never Been Pregnant or If You Become Pregnant After The Age of 26. (That’s one risk factor for me!)
If You Drink More Than Two Glasses of Liquor Each Day.
If You Smoke Cigarettes
If You Are a Woman. For every 100 women that develop breast cancer, one man will develop it as well.
If You Are Overweight. Studies show that there is a relationship between fat and an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Ladies, just another reason to hit the gym.
If You Have Ever Had Breast Cancer Before, You are at an increased risk of developing it again.
If You Have Been on Estrogen Replacement Therapy For More Than 10 Years. But there are so many good benefits that come along with replacing estrogen lost that some argue the that the benefits outweigh the risks. Estrogen replacement has been found to decrease the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and colon cancer. Replacement is never considered in women with a strong family history of breast cancer or women with breast cancer.
Even if you do not have any risks factors, every woman over the age of 20 should perform a self breast exam every month. The Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation has a great interactive module that shows you how to perform one!