Finding and treating breast cancer early is thought to save thousands of lives each year by many physicians. Screening techniques such as the self-breast examination, clinical examination, mammograms and other screening tests can help with early detection of the cancer.
How to Check for Breast Cancer with Self Examination
The breast self-examination is conducted by you in the privacy of your own home. This involves a step by step, systematic approach of examining your own breasts.
The self-examination can be done in the shower, laying on the bed or standing in front of the mirror. The arm near the breast being examined should be extended over the head. Using the fingers of the opposite hand and starting on the outside of the breast palpate the tissue in a circular motion as you work your way completely around the outside perimeter of the breast, then move your fingers in towards the nipple and repeat the circle, apply pressures to feel for lumps or any painful areas. Continue this sequence until the entire breast has been examined. Gently squeeze the nipple to determine if any discharge is present or any pain is noted. Next examine the area under the arm for lumps or pain. Report any abnormalities to your doctor at once.
It is recommended that it be done monthly to allow you to become very familiar with the look and feel of your own breast. When you do it regularly any variation is quite obvious and should be reported to your health care professional at once.
The CBE or Clinical breast examination is recommended for women age 20 and above. Women in the 20 to 30 year age group should be examined about every 3 years and those ages 40 and above should be examined yearly. The CBE is conducted in the physician’s office and can help determine any changes in the history of the patient and note changes in the breasts that may indicate the need for further testing.
The American Cancer Society recommends that all women over the age of 40 have a screening mammogram each year. Depending on individual health history or risk factors your doctor may recommend that you begin having a yearly mammogram at an earlier age. Mammograms offer substantial benefits for early detection of breast cancer, but they do have limitations. A mammogram can miss some cancers and at times the results of the mammogram can lead to other testing such as biopsies for abnormalities that are not cancerous.
What Causes Breast Cancer Lumps?
Your worst nightmare has come true – you’ve found a lump in your breast. A series of emotions are going to occur, and with shaking hands, you will most likely call your doctor for an appointment as soon as possible. Do not panic. Many lumps turn out to be nothing at all, but they do need to be checked. What causes breast cancer lumps?
Lumps that are not Breast Cancer
Not all lumps are due to breast cancer. Many are just fibrous tumors, which are not uncommon, and which in no way indicate that you will ever have breast cancer. In infants, breast lumps may occur due to large estrogen levels from the mother. In young girls, lumps are common in the early stages of breast development. Boys may also develop breast lumps during puberty.
Just because all lumps do not indicate breast cancer, you should not assume that this is the case. You need to see a doctor, and depending on the size and the feel of the lump, your doctor may or may not order a biopsy of the lump.
Lumps that Are Breast Cancer
Adult women who develop lumps have the highest instances of breast cancer. In most cases, it isn’t known whether the lump is cancerous or not until further tests have been conducted – including blood tests and biopsies. A biopsy is almost always required to determine the stage of the cancer, if cancer exists. Depending on the stage, a mastectomy may be required, and in almost all cases, either chemotherapy or radiation is required.
Cancer Rarely Hurts
You may think that a cancerous lump would be painful, but in most cases, it isn’t. On the other hand, there are those who report that the lump that they found actually was painful – and was cancerous. There is no way to know whether a cancerous lump will be painful or not, and all lumps – whether they hurt or not – should be examined by a doctor as soon as possible, regardless of how high your risk for breast cancer may be. Cancer could easily be ruled out with a simple mammogram, which is non-invasive.