Early detection saves lives, but how does one actually detect breast cancer?Health
Early detection saves lives, but how does one actually detect breast cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is detected early and is in the localized stage, the five-year relative survival rate is 99%. To take control of your own health, there are a few things one can be on the lookout for, especially if breast cancer runs in your family history.
Know the symptoms
While most breast cancer symptoms are caught by professional screenings, some early symptoms can be noticed at home just by being in tune with your own body.
Be on the lookout for:
- A change in how the breast or nipple feels
- A change in the breast or nipple’s appearance
- Any discharge from the nipple
Breast pain, on the other hand, isn’t usually a sign of breast cancer. Pain in the breasts can happen for a number of reasons, including puberty, PMS and menopause, benign cysts, pregnancy, and even as a side effect of some medications.
Performing breast self-examinations
All adult women (those who are past puberty) are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. Women are encouraged to get into the habit of checking their breasts even once a week; building an at-home exam into your routine will help you to become familiar with how healthy breasts should feel, allowing you to more easily recognize future changes.
When performing a breast self-exam, you’re pressing firmly with your fingers, including the lymph area in your armpits, and feeling for any lump, thickening, hardened knot, or any other breast changes. With a mirror, you can also look for any dimpling or puckering areas, further examining those areas with your fingers if you do notice something unusual or out of the ordinary.
Clinical breast exams and mammograms
During your yearly physical with a general physician, you’ll have a clinical breast exam done, where your doctor expands on the breast self-exams you’ve been doing at home. They’ll perform a visual and touch-based exam to look for signs of cancer that you may have missed in your own monthly checks.
These are routine exams and are an important part of early detection. Should anything feel or look out of character, your physician will refer you for a mammogram or ultrasound.
After the age of 40, women should book routine mammograms every 1-2 years. Even for women who have no symptoms and no known risks for breast cancer, regularly scheduled mammograms can help detect potential breast cancer at the earliest possible time.
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