4. How can I tell if I have breast cancer?
You must be diligent and conscientious about examining your breasts every month, ideally, after your period is completed. A women can notice changes by knowing how her breasts normally look and feel and feeling her breasts for changes (breast awareness), or by choosing to use a step-by-step approach (with a BSE) and using a specific schedule to examine her breasts. While standing in front of a mirror with your hands pressing firmly down on your hips, look at your breasts for any changes of size, contour, or dimpling, or redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin.( The pressing down on the hips position contracts the chest wall muscles and enhances any breast changes.) Exam each underarm while sitting up or standing and with your arm only slightly raised so you can easily feel in this area. Raising your arm straight up tightens the tissue in this area and makes it harder to examine. Of course, if you feel something that you think is different, such as a lump or cyst-don’t worry -call your friendly Lewisville gynecologist, and you can have an expert examine the area of concern and get the appropriate test done-a breast sonogram or maybe consultation with a general surgeon to see if a breast biopsy would be recommended. By checking and examining your breast each and every month, you will become more comfortable how your normal anatomy looks and feels, and you will then be more able to pick something up that is not normal and needs evaluation and treatment.
The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A mass that is painless, hard, and has irregular edges is more likely to be cancerous, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, or rounded. They can even be painful. For this reason, it is important to have any new breast mass or lump, or breast change checked by a health care professional experienced in diagnosing breast diseases. Other possible signs of breast cancer include:
Swelling of all or part of a breast ( even if no distinct lump is felt)
Skin irritation or dimpling
Breast or nipple pain
Nipple retraction ( turning inward)
Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
A nipple discharge other than breast milk i.e. bloody
Sometimes a breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm( “armpit” )or around the collar bone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the original tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt.
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