Breast Cancer Awareness
Many women do not have a chance to learn much about breast health or physiology unless they begin breastfeeding their children or develop a problem that needs medical attention. Most people know that breasts change in appearance throughout life and that the breasts are composed of fat, but they are actually much more complex than that. The breasts are made up of a complicated network of milk-producing sacs, passageways for carrying milk, supporting tissue, lymph nodes, glands, tiny muscles and fat. Throughout puberty and menopause, not only does the appearance of the breasts change but also the composition and workings of the breast tissue.
Becoming familiar with breast anatomy and physiology can help individuals understand the normal changes in their bodies that they experience throughout their lifetimes. This knowledge is also an important starting place for understanding health problems and diseases that affect the breasts including breast cancer.
Breast Self Awarness
How Can I Prevent Breast Cancer?
How Do I Know if I am at Risk for Breast Cancer?
All women are at risk for breast cancer. Known risk factors like having a family history of breast cancer, starting menopause after age 55 or never having children account for only a small number of new breast cancer cases every year. That means that most women who get breast cancer have no known risk factors except being a woman and getting older.
Organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the Susan G. Komen Foundation recommend that you:
- Talk to your family to learn about your family health history
- Talk to your provider about your personal risk of breast cancer
- Ask your doctor which screening tests are right for you if you are at higher risk
- Have a mammogram every year starting at age 40 if you are at average risk
- Know how your breasts look and feel and report any changes to your health care provider right away
- Make healthy lifestyle choices that may reduce your risk of breast cancer, such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and limiting alcohol intake
Breast Self-Exam (BSE) Instructional Tool
Breast self-exam (BSE) is a tool that may help you learn what is normal for you. BSE involves looking at and feeling your breasts. Women who practice BSE should also be sure to get mammograms and clinical breast exams at the appropriate age. BSE should not be substituted for these screening tests.
Lie down 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 off the skin.
Follow up and down pattern.
Feel for changes in your breast, above and below your collarbone and in your armpit.
Repeat on your left breast using your right hand.
These steps may be repeated while bathing or showering using soapy hands. Look for any changes from normal. Inspect your breasts in four steps:
- 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
***The signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women. In fact, some women have no signs that they can see. If you notice any of these breast changes, see your health care provider right away:
- A lump, hard knot or thickening
- Swelling, warmth, redness, or darkening
- Change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling or puckering of the skin
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
- Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
- New pain in one spot that does not go away
It is important to discuss any of these symptoms with a health care provider as soon as possible so that if breast cancer is present, it is more likely to be diagnosed at an early stage when it is most treatable.
Early Detection and Screening
Breast Implants and Mammography
Low-Cost and Free Mammography
- American Cancer Society
- ACS Reach to Recovery
- Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure
- Living Beyond Breast Cancer
- National Women’s Health Resource Center