It’s been common advice from the medical community since the 70s – women should give themselves a breast self-exam each month to check for tumors. However, studies have shown that women who perform regular self-exams have the same mortality rates from breast cancer as those who don’t go through the monthly ritual.
The reasons that self-exams are not as effect as once thought are varied. Some women would forget to do them at all. Some women were too concerned with how to perform a self-exam that they could miss warning signs. And some cancers spread alarmingly quickly, so that by the time a lump is noticed, the cancer has already spread.
If Not Self-Exams, Then What?
Today, instead of stressing breast self-exams, medical practitioners are focused on educating women about general breast cancer awareness and recognizing changes in what is normal for your body.
The dominant message is to be aware of the general look and feel of your breasts and be able to identify when changes in form or texture appear. Many women find lumps by noticing something that feels off with their breast during the normal course of the day. In some cases, a lover may find a lump before you notice it.
It is also important to undergo regular breast cancer screenings. It is recommended that women over the age of 40 get a mammogram screening each year. In some studies mammograms have been found to reduce mortality rates by 15 percent in women aged 39 to 49.
Be Aware of the Warning Signs
Breast cancer advocates recommend staying alert to potential warning signs of breast cancer. It is important for you and your intimate partner to be aware of the changes that require a medical opinion. Warning signs to look for include:
- A lump, hard knot, or thickening in the breast or underarm area
- Swelling, warmth, redness, or darkening of the breast
- Change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling or puckering skin of the breast
- An itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Pulling in of the nipple or other portions of the breast
- Discharge from the nipple that begins suddenly
- Localized pain in one portion of the breast that does not subside
The key to early detection is paying attention to your body and how it changes over time. The bottom line is if you are already in the habit of monthly self-exams, it doesn’t hurt to keep up the routine. The more aware you are of how your body feels, the more likely you will be to notice when something starts to change. And if you do notice any warning signs, make an appointment with your doctor to have it checked out.
Begin Your Breast Reconstruction Journey with Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery
At The Breast Center of Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery, we are dedicated to helping women through every step of their breast cancer journey. If you would like to schedule a breast reconstruction consultation to learn more about your options as you begin your journey to recovery, please call 720-457-4461 today.
We welcome patients from the Denver-metro area and throughout Colorado.