Self Breast Exams Save Lives

Most people know breast cancer is a serious disease. However, survival rates are much higher if the cancer is caught early. Self-exams are the best way for women to keep on top of breast health. If certain signs are identified, a visit to a healthcare provider for further assessment may be warranted. Paying attention to changes in the breasts and acting promptly can be the difference between life and death.


A new lump

Many people know that a new lump can be a sign of cancer, but detecting that lump can be difficult. A monthly breast exam is the best way to identify any concerning changes. The best time to perform the exam is 3-5 days after the period starts since the breasts are not as tender or lumpy at this point in the cycle. Use the 3 middle fingers to check the entire breast and armpit area for any changes. If a lump is identified, note the size and location and schedule an appointment to be seen. Not all lumps are cancerous, but women need to have the breast examined as soon as possible to know for sure.

Redness or flaky skin

Another concerning symptom is redness. Although there are explainable reasons for redness, such as sunburn or recently itching the area, breasts should be checked out if redness persists. Flaky or scaly skin can be another sign of breast cancer.

Breast pain

Any pain in the breast should be taken seriously. Although this is not a common cancer symptom, in some cases, breast pain can indicate a case of inflammatory breast cancer. Since general pain can be caused by many factors, waiting a few days to see if the pain subsides usually makes sense. Sometimes, the pain can be caused by the menstrual cycle, working out too hard, or even pregnancy. However, if the breast pain persists or worsens, a trip to the doctor is in order.

Nipple discharge

With the exception of breastfeeding, any nipple discharge is cause for concern. Whether the discharge is white, red, or another color, a doctor needs to take a more detailed look. Discharge from a single breast or discharge, along with other symptoms, such as a lump or redness, is cause for concern.

Examining the breast

If any concerning signs of breast cancer are identified, patients should make an appointment with a provider as soon as possible. The doctor will likely start by performing an exam in the office. Additional tests such as ultrasound or breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be ordered to obtain more information. Breast cancer is serious, but early detection can save lives. If any troubling symptoms arise, make an appointment to be seen.