Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in the United States. Early detection is key in the treatment of breast cancer. There are steps you can take to detect breast cancer early when it is most treatable.

Recommended Screening Guidelines:

MAMMOGRAPHY The most important screening test for breast cancer is the mammogram. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. It can detect breast cancer up to two years before the tumor can be felt by you or your doctor.

  • Women age 40 – 45 or older who are at average risk of breast cancer should have a mammogram once a year.
  • Women at high risk should have yearly mammograms along with an MRI starting at age 30.

Some Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

The following are some of the known risk factors for breast cancer. However, most cases of breast cancer cannot be linked to a specific cause. Talk to your doctor about your specific risk.

Age The chance of getting breast cancer increases as women age. Nearly 80 percent of breast cancers are found in women over the age of 50.

Personal history of breast cancer A woman who has had breast cancer in one breast is at an increased risk of developing cancer in her other breast.

Family history of breast cancer A woman has a higher risk of breast cancer if her mother, sister or daughter had breast cancer, especially at a young age (before 40). Having other relatives with breast cancer may also raise the risk.

Genetic factors Women with certain genetic mutations, including changes to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, are at higher risk of developing breast cancer during their lifetime. Other gene changes may raise breast cancer risk as well.

Childbearing and menstrual history The older a woman is when she has her first child, the greater her risk of breast cancer. Also at higher risk are:

  • Women who menstruate for the first time at an early age (before 12)
  • Women who go through menopause late (after age 55)
  • Women who’ve never had children

Self Examination Tips

Step 1: Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your
shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.breast_self_exam1_tcm8-326732

Here’s what you should look for:

  • Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color
  • Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling

If you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor’s attention:

  • Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
  • A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)
  • Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling

Step 2: Now, raise your arms and look for the same changes.

Step 3: While you’re at the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood).

2Step 4: Next, feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Use a circular motion, about the size of a quarter.

Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side — from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.

Follow a pattern to be sure that you cover the whole breast. You can begin at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast. You can also move your fingers up and down vertically, in rows, as if you were mowing a lawn. This up-and-down approach seems to work best for most women. Be sure to feel all the tissue from the front to the back of your breasts: for the skin and tissue just beneath, use light pressure; use medium pressure for tissue in the middle of your breasts; use firm pressure for the deep tissue in the back. When you’ve reached the deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your ribcage.

3Feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few fingers of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together.4

Step 5: Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements described in step 4.

Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements described in Step 4.

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Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in the United States. Early detection is key in the treatment of breast cancer. There are steps you can take to detect breast cancer early when it is most treatable. Recommended Screening Guidelines: MAMMOGRAPHY The most important screening test...

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