1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, 65% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed before there is any sign the cancer has spread outside of the breast. That leaves a large percentage of cases being diagnosed after there are signs of spreading.
Usually, breast cancer cannot be prevented. However, there are strategies for preventing death from breast cancer, the most important of which is early detection. The earlier breast cancer can be detected, the more effective treatment can be. As time passes and cancer progresses, treatment options become much more limited and even more complicated.
How Often Should a Breast Self-Exam be Preformed and Why?
Women who visit their gynecologist for an annual wellness check will have a breast exam performed by their doctor. In addition, they may have a mammogram preformed. While these exams are important, breast cancers can double in size every 180 days. Therefore, women are strongly advised to not only depend on their annual breast exam to detect signs or symptoms of breast cancer. If women rely strictly on the exam conducted by their doctor to expose abnormalities, it is possible the cancer is given the opportunity to grow by double or even quadruple in the span of one year.
We encourage women to perform a breast self-exam as often as once a month. The earliest symptom of breast cancer is usually a painless lump in the breast which can often be detected through a self-examination, particularly if a woman has already familiarized herself with her breasts and their normal healthy state. Simply taking time to observe your breast while dressing or undressing will make abnormalities or changes more apparent. In the case any abnormalities are suspected, speak with your doctor for further investigation.
Signs and Symptoms to Look for in Breast Self-Exam
- Swelling of entire breast (even if no lump is felt)
- Skin dimpling
- Nipple turning inward
- Nipple or breast skin that is red, dry flaking, or thickened
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
- Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or near collar bone
Every two minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. Forty percent of breast cancer diagnoses were detected by women who felt a lump. Knowing there are strategies to prevent deaths caused by breast cancer gives clarity to the need for women to prioritize breast self-examinations. We hope this information inspires women to make the decision to become more aware of their breast health. Early detection gives women a better chance for survival. Lane OB/GYN is a place women can always depend on to provide help, support, and education be proactive in their breast health.