Early detection is crucial
Medical experts agree that early detection is essential to treating cancers of any type, but especially breast cancer. When diagnosed before it spreads to other parts of the body, the survival rate is 99%. The risk of developing breast cancer increases as you age. So most doctors recommend yearly mammogram screenings after age 40. If you have a family history of the disease, discuss your options with your doctor, as you may want to take additional precautions or schedule more frequent screenings.
Self screenings and symptoms to look for
In addition to mammograms, doctors recommend regularly checking yourself for signs of breast cancer. Women should perform breast self-exams monthly, starting as early as their teens. While mammograms can detect cancer before you are able to feel a lump, self-checks are vital to checking between your screenings. Regular self-exams also help you notice changes to your breasts. Here are some potential breast cancer symptoms to look for while performing your self-exam:
- A hard lump anywhere in the breast, including near the armpit or around the nipple
- Any changes to skin texture around the breast, including dimpling or enlarged pores
- Unexplained changes in size or shape, especially in only one breast
- Tenderness or skin thickening, especially around the nipple
- Discharge if you are not breastfeeding
If you notice any of these signs and symptoms during a breast self-exam, you should contact your doctor. Remember, finding these symptoms does not automatically mean you have breast cancer. But you should always get checked by a professional if you notice anything abnormal.