How Do You Know If You Have Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer can affect many thousands of women per year. Many women seem to be too busy to take care of their breast health. All it takes is a regular visit to your doctor in order to see if you have any signs or symptoms of breast cancer. You need to do it not only for yourself but also for people in your family. Healthcare providers will make use of breast examinations and mammograms to see if you have any signs of breast cancer. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer early in its course, this can be life-saving. You can also examine your breasts every month.

How Do You Know If You Have Breast Cancer?

Breast Self-Exam

According to the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization, you should do a monthly breast self-exam about 7-10 days after the first day of your menstrual cycle. This is when there is the least tenderness in your breasts. If you don’t have menstrual periods, you simply need to do a breast self-examination on the same day of the month.

How should a breast self-exam be done?

There are certain ways to do a breast exam that will provide you with the best chances of identifying a lump.

  • While in the shower. While showering, you should use the pads of your fingers in order to move around each breast in a circular fashion, beginning in the outside of the breast and ending in the middle of the breast. The armpits should also be examined for lumps. Looking for hardened knots, areas of thickening, or lumps in the breast tissue.
  • Before a mirror. You need to put your arms to your sides and look at your breasts for symmetry or puckering. Then you should raise up your arms to check for lumps or any other abnormalities. You should inspect your breasts for swollen areas, skin dimpling, alterations in contour, or nipple abnormalities. Then you should place your palms at your hips and try to flex your chest muscles. Your breasts may not be of the same size and, since this is common, you should look for changes like puckering or dimpling on one side of the breast at a time.
  • When lying down. When you are lying down, the tissue of the breast will spread out along the chest wall in an even fashion. Use a pillow beneath your right shoulder and place your right arm behind your head. You should use the pads or the fingers of your left hand to look for lumps or other abnormalities of your right breast and right armpit. You should squeeze the nipple gently to see if there is any kind of discharge and apply different kinds of pressure when examining the breast. Repeat the process on the opposite breast.

Can Breast Self-Examinations Be Relied Upon Alone?

Nope, some tumor cannot be found by the self-exam method. While the mammograms can tell if you have breast cancer prior to being able to feel them yourself, which can be used as an invaluable tool for detecting breast cancer. How do you know if you have breast cancer if you don’t use other methods of detection?You need to combine mammograms, doctor’s evaluations, and monthly breast self-exam in order to fully detect whether or not you have breast cancer.

Watch this video to learn more about how to perform the self-exam.

When You Should See a Healthcare Provider

You need to keep watching on your own breasts to see whether they are normal in shape, color, and size. You need to examine your breasts from every angle and use differing amounts of pressure so that you can tell your doctor if anything has changed. Evaluate your breasts up to the collar bone, in the underarm area, and up to your breastbone.

These are some symptoms to look out for:

  • An increase in redness, warmth, or darkening of the breast
  • Any type of swelling, rash, or soreness of the breast
  • Changes in the shape or size of a breast
  • A scaly, itchy rash or sore on the nipple
  • Puckering or dimpling of the breast skin
  • Developing a flat or inverted nipple
  • Unusual discharge from the nipple
  • Ongoing itching of the breast
  • New pain in one area of the breast that does not go away
  • Any type of lump in the breast, especially hard, pea-sized lumps
  • Bumps in the breast that look like insect bites

Each breast is unique and can have varying kinds of lumps, some of which will come and go; and you should see your doctor if a breast lump does not go away. If you see any symptoms or signs that won’t dissipate after 2 to 3 weeks, you should contact your doctor.

How to Lower Your Risk of Breast Cancer

You may be able to lessen your chances of having breast cancer by engaging in certain lifestyle changes. Here are some tips to decreasing your breast cancer risk:

  1. Decrease alcohol consumption. Your risk of breast cancer goes up the more alcohol you consume. The usual recommendation is to have less than one drink daily.
  2. Quit smoking. There is ongoing research evidence indicating that there is a connection between breast cancer and smoking, particularly in women who have not gone through menopause yet.
  3. Keep your weight in control. If you are obese or just overweight, you have an increased chance of having breast cancer.
  4. Try to be physically active. You need to exercise at least 150 minutes weekly doing moderate aerobic activity. If you can do vigorous aerobic activity, you only need to do 75 minutes of aerobic exercise. Don’t forget to lift weights or use weight machines twice weekly.
  5. Breastfeed your baby. Research has shown that breastfeeding your baby may prevent breast cancer later in life. The more you breastfeed, the better your chances of not developing breast cancer.
  6. Place a limit on the dosage and duration of hormone replacement therapy. If you use the combination form of hormone replacement therapy longer than 3-5 years, you have an increased risk of breast cancer. If you are using this therapy for symptoms of menopause, find out if there are other choices. There may be non-hormonal treatments that will help control your symptoms. If the benefits outweigh the risks of using hormone replacement therapy, try to use the lowest dose you can.
  7. Stay away from environmental pollution and radiation. Things like CT scans use a lot of radiation during the procedure. There appears to be a link between radiation exposure and breast cancer, although more research needs to be done. The best you can do now is to have these tests as little as possible. These are the best ways of how do you know if you have breast cancer and to prevent it from occurring.
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