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Breast Self-Awareness

  • Category: News
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Brooke Williams, Director of Imaging at AGH/HS

Your breasts change as you go through different stages of your life. It is important to learn what is normal for your breasts by having breast self-awareness. The key to breast self-awareness is knowing how your breasts normally look and feel. This helps you to notice any changes.

Breast self-awareness isn’t about following a certain method and schedule. It’s knowing what's normal for your breasts so that you can notice even small changes right away. If you see any changes, report them to your healthcare provider right away.

What changes should you look for? If you find any changes in your breasts such as a lump, nipple discharge (other than breast milk), especially a bloody fluid, swelling, changes in shape or size, skin irritation, such as redness, thickening, or dimpling of the skin, swollen lymph nodes in the armpit, or nipple problems, such as pain or redness, contact your healthcare provider.

Some breast changes may be due to menstrual cycles or other reasons and are often benign, however, there may be a reason for concern. If you do find something different in the breast tissue or feel a definite lump it is important to notify your doctor immediately.

An important tool in breast health and breast cancer prevention is Mammography. A mammogram is an x-ray image of your breast that is used to find and diagnose breast disease. A mammogram may be done if you have breast problems such as a lump, pain, or nipple discharge. Mammograms are also done as a yearly screening test even if you don’t have breast problems. It can check for breast cancers, noncancerous/benign tumors before they can be felt.

Since a mammogram can’t prove that an abnormal area is cancer, if results show an area in your breast that is abnormal, you may need additional testing. Your healthcare provider may also recommend a sample of breast tissue via biopsy or surgery. The sample of tissue gets checked under a microscope to prove if it is cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends screening mammograms are a choice for women who are at average risk, starting at age 40. If you are at higher risk for breast cancer, talk with your provider about starting screening mammograms earlier, having additional tests such as a breast ultrasound, MRI or having mammograms more often.

While there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, you can lower your risk. Talk to your healthcare provider about preventative screenings today!