The most effective way to fight against breast cancer is through early detection of the illness, which can lead to successful treatment. While there are no professional tests for early breast cancer detection, a simple breast self-exam can help women notice any abnormalities.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one in eight women in the US will develop breast cancer, making it the most common type after skin cancer.
What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease that occurs when cells in the breast grow abnormally and begin to spread to other parts of the body. There are two main types: invasive and noninvasive. Invasive breast cancer occurs when cancer cells break through the breast wall and invade other tissues or organs.
Noninvasive breast cancer results when breast tissue continues to grow but does not break through the outer layer of the skin. Women with invasive breast cancer are more likely to develop additional tumors in the body, whereas noninvasive breast cancers are less likely to spread to other parts of the body.
Invasive breast cancer accounts for almost all breast cancer cases, while noninvasive is about 20% of cases. The remaining 80% of cases fall into one of three categories: ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), and infiltrating lobular carcinoma (ILC).
DCIS is the most common invasive breast cancer, totaling 20 to 30 percent of cases. In DCIS, abnormal cells have not yet penetrated surrounding structures. LCIS is a precancerous condition occurring when abnormal cells have infiltrated the milk ducts but have not broken through the outer layer of the skin. ILC is a rare form of invasive breast cancer resulting from DNA mutations in breast cells.
Common Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Risk factors for breast cancer include age, family history, and genetics. It is most common among women between the ages of 50 and 69, but it can occur at any age. While there are many different types of breast cancer, some common symptoms include:
- A lump in the breast. Lumps can be small or large, firm or soft, and may change size over time.
- Redness, nipple discharge, pain when breastfeeding or when getting dressed, and changes in skin texture such as dimpling or puckering
- You should see your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
How to Self-Examine for Breast Cancer
A breast self-exam is a method of checking your breasts for any signs of pain or discomfort. Learn to become comfortable with examining your breasts. Start small by checking your breasts in the mirror while keeping your arms on your hips and straightening your shoulders. See if they are of their usual size and shape and do not show any sign of swelling.
If you notice bulging or puckering of the skin, an inverted nipple, redness, or a rash, mention these to your doctor in a timely manner.
Next, raise your arms and check for the same signs. Also, see if any fluid is coming out of one or both of the nipples. This liquid may be milky, watery, or yellowish in appearance.
Then, lie down and check again for breast lumps and other abnormalities. Keep your fingers flat, and check both breasts with a smooth yet firm touch and move your fingers in a circular motion.
Finally, stand up or sit down. Feel your breasts using the same circular motion while applying light, medium, and firm pressure depending on the breast tissue you are feeling.
Self-Care Recommended by Professionals Can Save Your Life
Not only is breast cancer dangerous and life-threatening, but it can also negatively impact your quality of life. That’s why women need to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer so that they can get treatment as quickly as possible.
You can conduct a self exam yourself, but it’s easiest to learn to do it with someone familiar with the procedure. Either way, ensure you’re comfortable with the screening before you schedule any treatment. Even if you’re not exhibiting symptoms, it’s a good idea to do a breast self-exam throughout your lifetime to catch any early signs of breast cancer.
At Imperial Center Family Medicine, we believe prevention is better than a cure. Our primary care providers focus on spreading awareness about breast self-exams. Reach out to schedule your appointment with one of our specialists today.