When in Doubt, Check it Out

When in Doubt, Check it Out

Screening tests are used to find breast cancer before any symptoms manifest. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in the United States and early detection is key in its treatment. Regular screening tests are needed to detect breast cancer early when it is most treatable.

Recommended Screening Guidelines:

  • The most important screening test for breast cancer is the mammogram. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. It can detect breast cancer up to two years before the tumor can be felt by you or your doctor.
  • Women age 40 – 45 or older who are at average risk of breast cancer should have a mammogram once a year.
  • Women at high risk should have yearly mammograms along with an MRI starting at age 30.
What Does “High Risk” Mean?

While the following are some of the known risk factors for breast cancer, most cases of breast cancer cannot be linked to a specific cause. You’ll need to discuss your specific risk scenario with your doctor.

  • Age: the chance of getting breast cancer increases as women age. Almost 80 percent of breast cancers are found in women over 50 years of age.
  • Personal history of breast cancer: a woman who has had breast cancer in one breast is at an increased risk of developing cancer in her other breast.
  • Family history: a woman has a higher risk of breast cancer if her mother, sister, or daughter have had breast cancer, particularly before the age of 40. Having other relatives with breast cancer may also raise the risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Genetic factors: a woman with certain genetic mutations, including changes to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, has a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Other gene changes may raise the risk of breast cancer risk as well.

Your childbearing and menstrual history is also a breast cancer risk factor. The older a woman is when she has her first child, the greater her risk. Women who menstruate for the first time at an early age (before 12), women who go through menopause late (after age 55), and women who’ve never had children are also at increased risk.

Warning Signs of Breast Cancer

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital to see a doctor quickly if you have any warning signs of breast cancer. Do not delay making a doctor’s appointment if you notice a change in your breast, nipple, or underarm areas. While warning signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women, the most common signs are:

  • A change in the look or feel of the breast
  • A change in the look or feel of the nipple
  • Nipple discharge

If you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment with Dr. White immediately. If that’s not an option, call your health department, a clinic or a nearby hospital. If you have insurance, your insurance company will have a list of providers in your area.

Breast lumps or lumpiness

Breast tissue naturally has a bumpy texture. Some women have more lumpiness in their breasts than others. In most cases, lumpiness is no cause for concern. If the lumpiness can be felt throughout the breast, then it’s likely normal breast tissue. If the lumpiness of one breast feels similar to the other breast, then it’s likely normal breast tissue also. Lumps that feel harder or different from the rest of the breast (or the other breast) should be checked. Also, if these lumps are a change from what you normally feel in your breasts, it’s important to get checked by a health care provider. This type of lump may be a sign of breast cancer. However, it may also be a benign breast condition like as a cyst or fibroadenoma. The only way to know for sure is to get checked out.Breast Cancer Signs

Reminders: see a health care provider if you:
  • Find a new lump (or any change) that feels different from the rest of your breast
  • Find a new lump (or any change) that feels different from your other breast
  • Feel something that’s different from what you felt before
  • If you’ve had a benign lump in the past, it’s dangerous to assume a new lump will also be benign. It is always best to make sure.

Nipple discharge

Liquid leaking from your nipple (nipple discharge) can be troubling, but it’s rarely a sign of breast cancer. Discharge can be your body’s natural reaction when the nipple is squeezed. Signs of a more serious condition (such as breast cancer) include discharge that:

  • Occurs without squeezing the nipple
  • Occurs in only one breast
  • Is bloody or clear (not milky)
  • Nipple discharge can also be caused by an infection or other condition that requires a doctor’s evaluation and treatment

In most cases, these changes to your breast will not turn out to be cancer. A great example is breast pain. Breast pain is actually more common in benign breast conditions than with breast cancer. However, the only way to know for sure is to get it checked by a health care provider. If any change to your breast is a result of breast cancer, your chances of surviving it are greatest if found at an early stage. Contact our office for an appointment today: 972-294-6992.

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