Early Detection is the Best Protection
Take control of your breast health by following these breast cancer screening guidelines:
Beginning in your 20s:
Perform regular Breast Self-Exam (BSE)
, a BSE can help you become familiar with how your breasts normally look and feel. This knowledge may help you identify any breast changes that should be promptly reported to your healthcare professional. The American Cancer Society considers BSE an option for women starting in their 20s. Many experts recommend that women do a monthly BSE. The following steps will help you perform a BSE correctly.
Step 1: Lying down feel for changes:
- Lie on your back with a pillow under your right shoulder.
- Use the pads of the three middle fingers on your left hand to check your right breast.
- Press using light, medium, and firm pressure in a circle without lifting your fingers
- Follow an up and down pattern.
- Feel for changes in your breast, above and below your collarbone and in your armpits. Repeat on your left side.
Step 2: In front of a mirror look for changes:
- Hold arms at your side. Hold arms over your head.
- Press your hands on your hips and tighten your chest muscles.
- Bend forward with your hands on your hips.
Report any changes or irregularities to your healthcare professional at once.
In your 20s and 30s:
You should receive a Clinical Breast Exam (CBE) about every 1 to 3 years. A CBE is a physical examination of your breasts by a healthcare professional. During this exam; the healthcare professional will check your breasts, often using the same finger-touch technique that is used for breast self-exams.
Age 40 and over:
If you are 40 or over, you should receive a mammogram and CBE yearly, it is preferable to schedule your annual CBE shortly before your annual mammogram so that any suspicious areas found during your CBE can be reviewed on the mammogram.
Not all Breast Findings are Cancerous
Most breast lumps are benign or harmless; however, all should be checked. It's important to realize that breasts change over time - click here for normal breast changes to expect.
Below are some of the more common breast conditions that may cause lumps.
- Calcifications: Calcifications (calcium deposits) or microcalcifications (small calcifications) are the smallest particles visible on a mammogram. Calcifications are a normal occurrence in a woman’s breast tissue. However, they can be a sign that cancer may be present in an early stage.
- Fibrocystic Changes: This is the most common cause of breast lumps in women under age 50. The condition is not fully understood, but it is thought to be a reaction to overactive hormones. The breast’s fibrous tissue increases, and several cysts and/or clumps of fibrous tissue forms within the breast.
- Cysts: Cysts are single or multiple fluid-filled sacs that are not accompanied by an increase in fibrous tissue. This is a type of fibrocystic tissue.
- Fibroadenomas: Fibroadenomas are single, solid tumors made of fibrous and glandular tissue. They usually move when felt. They are most often found in women between the ages of 18 and 45.