How to detect breast cancer early

In honor of the month of October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to provide our trusted doctor information on how you can best detect breast cancer before it is too late. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women worldwide, and about 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. If left undetected, the cancer can grow and spread. As Dr. Legha, a HealthTap Internal Medicine doctor claims,

“ If you do monthly breast self exam, you will be able to tell if you have any new lumps. They are often painless and grow in size if left unattended for more then 1 or 2 months. The tumor can also spread outside of the breast if not treated promptly.”

However, when breast cancer is detected early, there is a very high likelihood that it will be adequately treated and cured.

Warning signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women, but they usually are indicated by a change in the look or feel of the breast or nipple, or a change in nipple discharge. While changes in nipple discharge or the feel of the breast do not usually indicate breast cancer is present, it is wise to consult with a doctor for to understand the underlying cause.

You should consult with a doctor if you:

  • Find a new lump or a change that feels different from the rest of your breast, or from the other breast
  • Feel something that’s different from what you felt before
  • Notice nipple discharge that is clear or bloody (not milky) and/or is released without squeezing the breast

When breast cancer is detected early, the odds that it will be cured are very high. You can detect the signs of breast cancer early, following these steps:

Complete a monthly breast self-exam. Here are the steps to follow to give yourself an exam each month.

Get a clinical breast exam. A clinical breast exam is performed by a medical professional, who is trained to look for abnormalities that may otherwise go undetected. This should be performed at routine doctor visits, in addition to your monthly self- exam.

Get a mammogram. Mammograms are x-rays that allow a medical professional to analyze the breast tissue for abnormalities before they are able to be felt. Women 40 and older should get a mammogram every 1 or 2 years, and women under 40 who have risk factors should consult with a doctor to see if mammograms are advisable for them.

If you want to determine what the best course of action is for you, consult with a doctor today. Our network of doctors is always available for you, whether you want to discuss screening options, or have any questions about your risks or symptoms.

Author: Maggie Harriman

maggie.harriman (at) healthtap.com