Could It Be Breast Cancer?
Mammograms are the gold standard for breast cancer screening and detection, but self-breast exams are a key step to starting the conversation with your doctor. Learn how to do a self-exam, and what a cancerous breast lump feels like. If you notice changes to your breasts, it is important to contact your doctor right away.
How To Do A Breast Self-Exam
Breast self-exams, or regularly examining your breasts on your own, can be an important way to find a breast cancer early, when it’s more likely to be treated successfully. While no single test can detect all breast cancers early, performing breast self-exams in combination with other screening methods can increase the odds of early detection.
However, know that breast self-exams are just one way to keep an understanding of the shape and make-up of your breast. In recent years, there has been concern that breast self-exams cause women to unnecessarily worry or visit their doctor with concerns. It is best to use breast self-exams in partnership with mammograms and regular check-ups with your provider.
If You Find A Lump
Women's breasts are all different. During our cycles and over time, our breasts can change. Some women have dense and lumpy breasts naturally. This does not mean she has breast cancer. This is why having a good understanding of what your breasts normally feel like will help you understand when something changes or sometime new develops.
If you do notice a change in your breasts, talk to your provider immediately. It is likely a mammogram or ultrasound or both will be recommended in order to diagnose if there is a concern.
Signs It Might Be Breast Cancer
So how do you know when to be concerned? Talk to your care provider immediately if you notice:
- a lump, hard knot, or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
- swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
- change in the size or shape of the breast
- dimpling or puckering of the skin
- itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
- nipple discharge that starts suddenly
- or new pain in one spot that doesn’t go away.
Don’t wait until you have a concern to make your appointment! It is important to see your gynecologist or primary care physician yearly to identify and discuss and to talk about changes in your overall health.