Here Are The Signs Of Breast Cancer To Watch For And How To Do A Breast Self
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month so we have teamed up with Breast Cancer Foundation to share stories of women across Singapore who have battled, or are fighting, breast cancer. As women we should take charge of our health by knowing the signs of breast cancer , doing a monthly breast self-examination with our easy TLC guide and prioritising regular mammogram screenings.
It may not make the news every day but breast cancer is a health crisis that has been around for decades. Breast cancer is the number 1 killer cancer among women in Singapore. 1 in 13 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, 6 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every day and 1 death occurs from breast cancer daily.*
When To Call Your Doctor
Make an appointment with your primary care doctor or come see us at the Breast Center if you notice any of the following:
- A new or unusual lump in your breast
- Dimpling, puckering or bulging in your skin
- A nipple that has changed position or become inverted
- Any redness, soreness, swelling or rash
- Your health and wellness is our number one priority. Our state-of-the-art Breast Center provides complete and personalized breast health care.
Unusual Changes To Look For
Consider how your breasts normally look and feel, Piatek says. We want women to look at themselves in the mirror at least once a month and look at their breasts.
While looking in the mirror, zero in on any changes in the size or shape or either breast and look for any changes that may have occurred in the appearance of the skin on your breasts.
For example, is there a rash or redness thats not going away or is there any skin thickening, Piatek says. If you lift your arms up, is there any dimpling of your breast tissue, swelling around your collarbone or under your arm?
Ultimately, the goal is to build awareness without adding additional stress, says Deanna J. Attai, MD, associate clinical professor in the department of surgery at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine in Los Angeles and UCLA Health Burbank Breast Care.
I tell patients now that we no longer scold you for not doing monthly self-exams anymore, Dr. Attai says. We want women to have a general idea of whats normal for them and to be aware that breast cancer doesnt always present as a lump. It can be a sudden swelling, a redness of the skin that doesnt go away with antibiotics, blood from the nipple or a retraction or dimpling that can be a potential sign of an underlying cancer.
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What Are The Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer
While different people have different symptoms of breast cancerand some dont have any at allwarning signs of breast cancer include new lumps in the breast and armpit, swelling of the breast, redness or pain in the nipple region, or change in the breast size.
Remember that some of these symptoms are associated with other conditions that arent cancer.
What Does A Breast Cancer Lump Feel Like
It is important to differentiate what would feel normal and what feels abnormal. This is why monthly self-breast exams are key in recognizing these abnormalities. A concerning lump may feel firm, very firm. I have personally felt cancerous lumps that have felt like gravel under the skin. The area also feels stuck to the underlying tissue so it is usually immobile. This area is usually painless which is why women may not recognize the abnormality. In a safer feeling lump you might feel it as soft and rubbery much like the end of your nose. It is mobile and can or may feel tender. This tenderness can vary at different times of the month so it is important to recognize how feeling this might be in perspective to the timing of your menstrual cycle, Mata says.
Breast lumps are not the only sign of breast cancer. Other common signs and symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Swelling on one section of the breast, or the entire breast
- Nipple discharge , including blood
- Changes in the shape or appearance of the breast
- Skin irritation on the breast or scaling
- Dimpling of the skin on the breast
- Thickened skin on the nipples or breast
- Redness on the nipples or breast
- Inverted nipple
- Swelling of the arm
- Swelling around the collar bone
If you have a pea-sized lump in the breast and are also experiencing at least one of the above symptoms, make an appointment with your medical provider right away to receive a mammogram .
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When To Do A Breast Self Exam
Women should begin practicing breast self-exam by age 20, and continue the practice throughout their lives, even during pregnancy and after menopause.
Breast Self Exam should be performed every month.
- If you still menstruate, the best time to do a BSE is a few days after your period ends, when your breasts are not tender or swollen.
- If you have gone through menopause, try to do the exam on the same day each month. Some women choose the first day of each month to help them remember.
- If you are taking hormones, talk to your doctors about when you should perform the BSE.
Why Should I Do A Bse
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women. Even if you have mammograms, you may still want to do a BSE regularly. If you know how your breasts normally feel and look, it may help you know when to contact your healthcare provider. Mammograms can miss some cancers. You may find a lump during a BSE that did not show up on a mammogram.
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How Do You Perform A Self Breast Exam
Self breast exams are a way to examine the breasts to check for any change in appearance, feel, or sensation with a hand motion that covers the entire breast tissue looking for inconsistencies, says Dr. Shepherd.
First, look at your breasts in the mirror and note anything out of the ordinary says Dr. Wider. You can perform in the shower or lying down in bed or both.
Then, feel your breasts using the pads of the 3 middle fingers: start around the nipple and areola and make circles going outward until you reach under the armpit.
It is also important to feel the breast tissue while using one hand to feel the other breast and then switching sides, says Dr. Shepherd. It is good to use a firm, smooth touch by keeping the fingers flat and together. Then while using a circular motion, take the hand to cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side. Body landmarks to remember for the exam is to move from your collarbone to the top of the abdomen, and then from the armpit to the cleavage area.
Why Is Bse Important
Monthly breast self-examination is an important part of health care for all women in every stage of life.
This is one physical examination you can do yourself, in the privacy of your own home.
Women can discover breast changes themselves through self-exams, so this is an important health routine to establish.
In addition to BSE, women should get regular breast examination by their health care provider. Women should have annual mammograms starting at age 40.
Doing these steps have been shown to improve the chances of early detection of breast cancer.
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How Long To Wait After Finding A Lump In Your Breast
If you find a lump in your breast and you menstruate, wait until after you have your period to contact your medical provider. Its possible that the lump will go away on its own shortly after your period ends. If you are pregnant and have a lump in your breast, mention it to your OB-GYN or midwife at your next prenatal appointment.
If you are feeling extremely stressed after finding a lump in your breast, contact your medical provider right away. Your medical provider can perform an examination and breast cancer screening if necessary and provide you with answers that may put your mind at ease.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends to get a mammogram every 1-2 years beginning at age 40 for the average person. If youre older than 40, regular mammogram screenings should be done later than 50 and to be continued to age 75, Mata adds.
When Should You Do Your Diy Breast Self
A breast self-examination should be done once every month.
The best time to examine your breasts is 7 to 10 days after the start of your period, when your breast are least tender and least swollen.
If you no longer have periods, then choose a date that is easy to remember.
It is best done while lying down on the bed. You can also check while standing in the shower or in front of the mirror.
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Prevention At Every Age
People in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam performed by a qualified nurse or doctor every three years. If you are in your 40s or older, we recommend an annual clinical breast exam.
These breast exams can be done during your regular check up and are an important part of your wellness routine. Your doctor or nurse will ask you questions and check for lumps or other physical changes in your breasts.
How To Perform A Breast Self
Not sure how to do your own breast self-exam? Heres an overview of the process from the National Breast Cancer Foundation and BreastCancer.org:
- Step #1: Stand bare-chested facing a mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. Check for any concerning features such as swelling, redness, soreness, inverted or leaking nipples, or unusual dimpling or puckering of the skin.
- Step #2: Lift your arms and check for the same issues.
- Step #3: Lie down and check your breasts by feeling for any anomalies with your hands. Using your first three fingers, massage your breast tissue in small circular motions roughly the size of a quarter. Proceed from the top of your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and then move from your armpit to your cleavage area.
- Step #4: Use this same method to check your breasts while youre standing or sitting. Many women prefer doing this self-examination in the shower, as its a convenient time to double-check for anything out of the ordinary.
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What Are Risk Factors For Breast Cancer
Any woman can get breast cancer. However, certain factors may increase your risk.
Risk factors for breast cancer include:
- Being 50 years of age or older
- Having a personal or family history of breast cancer
- Having your first menstrual period before the age of 12 years
- Getting pregnant for the first time after the age of 30
- Not breastfeeding
- Never having a full-term pregnancy
- Heavy alcohol use
Perform A Manual Inspection While You Are Lying Down
Lie down on a bed or couch, place a pillow under your left shoulder and put your left hand behind your head. Use your right hand to manually examine your left breast using the same techniques outlined in step 2. Then, position the pillow under your right shoulder, put your right hand behind your head and use your left hand to manually examine your right breast using the same techniques.
If you discover a lump or another abnormality during your monthly breast self-exam, dont panic most breast lumps are not cancerous. Just be sure to discuss any unusual changes with a physician right away.
In the Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, you can benefit from the latest options in breast cancer screening, diagnostics, treatment and supportive care. To request an appointment, call or complete our new patient registration form online. As Floridas top cancer hospital, we have disrupted the traditional patient care model to provide our patients with rapid care, allowing them to start treatment as soon as possible for the best outcome.
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Why Should I Do A Self Breast Exam
First: Why do one? Getting to know your breasts is vital so you can pick up any changesthis is best accomplished by doing a self breast exam regularly, according to Jennifer Wider, M.D., womens health expert.
Aging plays a part as well. With age, the tissue and structure of your breasts begin to change because of reproductive hormone levels caused by the natural process of aging, says Jessica Shepherd M.D., M.B.A., F.A.C.O.G., ob/gyn from Baylor University Medical Center. She adds that with age, there will be less elasticity, the breasts lose firmness and fullness and can develop a stretched and looser appearance. Dense breast tissue is replaced by fatty tissue as the aging process continues.
Because young women typically have dense breast tissue, a mammogram is not always the best diagnostic tool for them, according to the Young Survival Coalition. 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.
Doctors recommend all people are aware of their own breast and chest tissue and seek medical advice should they notice any changes. The more each person knows about their body, the more they will be able to play an active role in their health care, says Dr. Wong.
How Often Should A Female Perform A Breast Exam
It is recommended that women at age 40 should be getting breast exams with a doctor every year. Depending on your family history, a routine clinical breast exam may be recommended more frequently. If you are wondering when to do a breast exam, doctors advise you to have one done after your menstrual cycle.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer can show up differently in different women. Some women do not have any signs or symptoms of breast cancer at all which is why its always best to do regular mammograms and know your breasts so you can detect any slight changes in size/shape or feel.
Possible signs of breast cancer to watch for:
- a new lump in your breast
- a change in the size and shape of your breast
- a change to the nipple such as crusting/flaking, redness, discharge or the nipple pulled in
- a change in the skin of your breast such as redness, thickening, dimpling, or puckered skin
- a pain that does not go away
Most breast changes will not be due to breast cancer but you should always get them checked by your doctor to be safe. If you notice a change in the look or feel of your breasts, even if your screening mammogram was normal, see your GP without delay.
Early Detection: The Importance Of Breast Self
According to Blythe K. Gorman, M.D., an Associate Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Houston Methodist Hospital and a member of our Houston-Montrose Bar Method studio, Early detection is one of the most powerful tools we have in our fight against breast cancer, which is why monthly self-exams are so important. By fostering awareness of your body, youre far more likely to detect any changes that may be clinically significant as early as possible. Performing regular self-exams allows us all to become our own best advocates by taking an active role in our health care and maintenance.
According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women will develop breast cancer by the age of 75. But as Susan G. Komen points out, when breast cancer is detected early and is in the localized stage, the five-year relative survival rate is 99%. Early detection efforts include monthly breast self-exams, regular clinical breast exams and mammograms.
Mammograms actually help detect tumors before they can be felt beneath the skin, which is why these screenings are necessary for early detection. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all women are offered breast cancer screenings with mammograms starting at 40 years old and advises that these should be continued every one to two years until at least age 75.
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Perform A Manual Inspection While You Are Standing
Next, use your right hand to manually examine your left breast for lumps, knots, thickened areas and other unusual changes. Using the pads of your three middle fingers, press on every part of your breast and underarm area. Follow a circular pattern to help ensure that you dont miss any areas. Gradually increase the pressure you apply from light to firm. Gently squeeze your nipple to check for discharge. Then, use your left hand to manually examine your right breast using the same techniques.
Basic Facts About Breast Health:
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
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Why Does My Breast Hurt When I Press It
There are different causes for pain in the breast when your press, and these are not necessarily cancer. They include hormonal changes, breast cysts, and injuries to the breast. Speak with your doctor to determine the cause of your breast pain.
If you find a lump or abnormality, dont panic. Remember that the vast majority of breast abnormalities turn out benign or noncancerous.
Besides cancer, breast lumps can be
- fibroadenoma, which is a benign tumor of the breast tissue
- fibrocystic breast disease, which is painful, lumpy breasts caused by hormone changes
- intraductal papilloma, which is a small, benign tumor of the milk ducts
- mammary fat necrosis, which refers to lumps formed by bruised, dead, or injured fat tissue
This doesnt mean that you should ignore a lump or abnormality. If you find a lump, make an appointment with your healthcare professional to have your breast professionally examined.