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Breast Awareness & Early Detection

What is Breast Awareness?

Breast awareness is the process of familiarizing yourself with the appearance, texture, and feel of your breasts so that any changes can be easily noted and reported to your doctor. Breast awareness helps in the early detection of breast cancer. Cancer that is detected early can be treated more effectively. A regular self-breast examination is recommended to encourage breast awareness.

How Does One Perform a Self-breast Examination for Early Detection of Breast Cancer?

A self-breast examination should be performed regularly at a place of your convenience. You can do it while in the bath or shower while getting dressed or applying lotion. You should be familiar with how your breasts look directly or through a mirror. Use your hands to feel all parts of your breasts, including the regions near your armpit and collar bone.

What are the Abnormalities that can be Detected During a Breast Examination?

Some of the abnormalities that may be noticed on a self-breast examination include:

  • A lump
  • Change in breast shape
  • Change in breast size
  • Area of thickening or swelling
  • Dimpling of the skin
  • Area of irritation
  • Area of pain
  • Inversion of the nipple
  • Non-milk discharge from the nipple

If you have noticed any of these or other breast changes, you should visit your doctor for an evaluation.

What are the Other Techniques Used for Early Detection of Breast Cancer?

Before symptoms appear, breast cancer can be detected effectively with screening tests. The most common screening test ordered is a mammogram. Your doctor may order other tests such as a breast ultrasound if your mammogram is unclear.

Cancers found on screening tests are usually small, confined to the breast, and have better outcomes with treatment.

How Often are Screening Tests Performed for Early Detection of Breast Cancer?

Screening with a mammogram is usually recommended once a year after the age of 45. If you have got negative results till the age of 55, you may be recommended screening once every two years.

If you have a high risk of breast cancer, a yearly mammogram, as well as a breast MRI is recommended after the age of 30.

Why is Breast Awareness and Early Detection More Important for Some Women?

If you have a high risk of breast cancer, you should be more breast aware and more vigilant with screening tests. You are considered to be at high risk for breast cancer if you have a

  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • A Genetic mutation that increases the risk of breast cancer
  • History of radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30

Your doctor will review your history and determine your risk of breast cancer.