The term “breast cancer” is enough to fill a woman’s head with many thoughts. Perhaps you’re instantly reminded of a friend who’s currently undergoing chemo or radiation. Or, you think back fondly to a relative who lost her (or his) battle to breast cancer. Perhaps you’re thinking, “It’s about time I call for my first mammogram,” or, “I need to call to make an appointment for my yearly exam.” As women, we know we need to call and have that yearly checkup. We also know how to self-check for lumps or other signs of obvious breast distress. What we may not know are the lesser-known signs of breast cancer. And one of the best ways to stop cancer in its tracks is to catch it early. Read on to learn more about all of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and how to perform a thorough self-exam.
Knowing Your Body
One of the best ways to monitor for any type of illness or disease is to know and be in tune with your body. And, if you think about the positioning of the breasts, this may not be as easy as it sounds. Unless you often examine yourself in front of a mirror, you may be oblivious to changes or small nuances in your breasts, as you can’t see them well from a standing vantage point. One of the best things to do is to perform a breast self-exam once a month. You should complete the exam in three parts: in the shower, lying down, and in front of a mirror.
- In the shower, it’s advised you move your fingers around the area, touching the entire breast and armpit throughout. If you feel any lumps or knots, report to your physician immediately.
- When you are in front of a mirror, raise your arms high above your head and visually inspect your breasts and the surrounding area. Look for any changes in coloration or skin, such as changes around the nipple or dimples and puckers.
- When you are lying down, move the pads of your fingers over the area in a slow, rolling motion to feel for any bumps, lumps, or knots.
Most Common Symptoms
After your self-exam, if you feel any abnormalities, lumps, or other changes in or around your breasts, you should inform your doctor immediately. Another issue to keep an eye out for is nipple retraction. During your exam, if you notice your nipples turning inward, it’s an important symptom to tell your doctor.
Even if you do not notice anything during your monthly self-exam, it’s still imperative to have a yearly checkup and a mammogram, especially after age 40. The Woman’s Clinic features a state-of-the-art clinic known as The Breast Center, to make each mammogram and examination more comfortable for the patient. In addition to 3D mammograms that provide trustworthy and reliable results, the clinic itself is outfitted with comfortable, soft chairs, a friendly staff, cotton robes for your examination, and a private waiting room. A mammogram often can make women feel anxious and nervous, and The Breast Center was designed with patient comfort in mind.
Five Less Common Signs
Most women are familiar with the more common signs listed above. However, there are five less common signs to be aware of when it comes to your breasts.
- Puckering–This skin issue can occur anywhere on or around the breasts, but most notably near the nipple or on the sides of the breast. A growing tumor tends to affect the skin, causing puckering.
- Dimpling–This is another skin condition caused by a possible growing tumor. If you notice dimples anywhere near or on the breast tissue (skin that looks like the outside of an orange peel), let your provider know immediately.
- Discharge–Let a professional know immediately if you find discharge coming from the nipple.
- Changes in nipple color–Discharge and inverted nipples can both be signs of cancer, as can skin color changes. If you notice darkening or lightening of your nipple or areola, see your doctor.
- Red spots–If you notice red, patchy areas on your nipple or breasts, it’s wise to have the areas evaluated. Any swollen or irritated breast tissue should also be looked at immediately.
If breast cancer is detected early (stage 0 or stage 1), the five-year survival rate is close to 100 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. This is why it is so important to:
- Know all of the signs and symptoms
- Perform a monthly self-exam
- Have a yearly mammogram
Make an appointment at The Woman’s Clinic today for your yearly mammogram, or for any facet of OB/GYN care. With a caring, experienced staff, we offer convenient locations in both Jackson and Madison, and provide 3D mammograms for the most reliable results.