Breast cancer is a very real, and very scary, disease that affects over 12% of U.S. women each year. And, unfortunately, there are few things you can do to prevent breast cancer from disrupting your life. Naturally, you can lead a healthy lifestyle; eat well, exercise often, wear sunscreen whenever you go outside, etc. But breast cancer is heavily a genetic cancer, which means that if the illness is in your genetic code, there’s not much you can do either way to stop it from potentially occurring.
What you can do, however, is be aware of the symptoms of breast cancer. Being able to quickly identify the warning signs of this disease is the most sure-fire way to assure detection, treatment, and a full recovery from the cancer.
The first thing you’ll need to master is the art of the self-examination. Checking yourself for any symptoms is the easiest and most thorough way to keep an eye on the shape of your breasts year-round.
Here’s what you’ll need to do for the best breast exam possible and the symptoms you should be watching out for.
1. CHECK YOURSELF AFTER EACH PERIOD
While you should check your breasts regularly, the best time to do so is in the days following your period. All you have to do is simply lift your arm straight in the air and feel your bare breast with a few fingers, pressing down around the entire surface of each breast.
Also, make sure to feel under your armpit as well; you may not realize it, but this another place where symptoms of cancer can show themselves.
2. KNOW WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR
So know you know where to touch and how often to do it, but what are you looking for internally when you’re giving yourself a breast (and armpit) exam? Most commonly, you’re feeling for lumps.
It’s important to know that there are MANY reasons that breasts can feel lumpy without any connection to breast cancer; infections, scar tissue, and cysts are just a few (and typically not dangerous) reasons your breast may be naturally lumpy. This is why conducting regular breast exams is so crucial! You have to know how your breasts feel normally so you can determine when there is a concerning lump.
Typically, cancerous lumps will be hard, difficult to move, and painless to the touch. These lumps can appear in your breasts or armpits.
3. CHECK THE BREAST SKIN
Once you’ve done a typical breast exam and checked for lumps, give your breasts a visual scan over. You’ll want to check and make sure there are no visible changes to the breast.
The most common external symptoms that are important to take notice of are:
- Dimpled skin
- Puckered skin
- Thickened skin
- Reddened skin
- Scaly skin
- Flattened skin
- Indentation in breast
If your breasts are swollen or tender for a long period of time, too, these could also be potential symptoms.
4. CHECK THE NIPPLE
Likewise, the nipple of each breast needs to be evaluated for sudden changes. If you see anything strange in the skin of your breast or with your nipple, bring the concerns to your doctor right away.
The most common warning signs on your nipples are:
- Nipple turning inward
- Discharge (that’s not breast milk)
5. HAVE YOUR DOCTOR PERFORM AN EXAM
Whether you go to them with a concern you’ve noticed or you’re simply at your yearly checkup, make sure your doctor performs a breast exam. They may be able to feel or sense symptoms you missed or confirm/deny that potential symptoms are dangerous.
Make sure that you call or see your doctor with ANY concerns you have. Remember, better safe than sorry! The doctor will appreciate that you brought up the concern, rather than waiting months to see them next.
What do you think of these breast cancer symptoms? Do you give yourself a monthly breast exam? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.