Taking good care of your breasts involves keeping up with routine breast exams. By incorporating regular breast exams into your health regimen, you will be better able to recognize problems developing at an early stage and improve your chances of having a long and healthy life.
Breast Examinations and Their Benefits
Regular breast examinations are the best way to detect changes in your breasts that could be signs of a serious health problem. As the years go by, your breasts will change. These changes are common. Many times, the changes are consistent with hormonal changes that occur with normal aging. The good news is that most of the changes you notice in your breasts are hormonal and not caused by cancer.
Regular examination will help you notice when something has changed in your breasts. Regular examinations enable you to detect any change at its earliest stage. Early detection allows your health care provider to diagnose the issue and develop appropriate testing and treatment protocols.
If the diagnosis is breast cancer, your doctor can treat it before it becomes life-threatening. In short, good breast care through regular examinations can be life-saving.
Routine Breast Examinations
There are several types of routine breast examinations. They include:
Many women who have had breast cancer reported that the first sign of their breast cancer was a new breast lump that they discovered during a self-examination. Self-examination is important because it helps you improve your breast awareness so that you understand what is normal and better able to detect changes in them.
When performing a self-examination of your breasts, you should do a visual inspection for changes in how they look, and use your hands to determine any changes to the way they feel. Make sure to do your self-examination at a time when you are not having your period. Your hormone levels fluctuate during your menstrual cycle, which can cause your breasts to become tender and the tissues to swell. A good time to perform a self-exam is the week after the end of your period.
If you do notice anything new, you should discuss it with your doctor. Again, changes are common and most of them are not cancer. However, the changes could be an infection or skin condition that needs medical treatment. In particular, you should promptly see your doctor if you notice any of the following conditions:
- A hard lump in one or both of your breasts, even if it is very small
- Unusual or unexplainable pain, warmth, swelling, or tenderness.
- Fluid leaking or discharge from a nipple
- One of your nipples appears to be pulling inward instead of poking out
- The skin of one of your breasts is turning red, dimpling, or puckering
A mammogram is a special x-ray of your breasts. A mammogram can detect problems in your breasts and cancer before you can feel a cancerous lump. A screening mammogram can provide your doctor with a baseline of what is normal for your breasts. After that, the frequency of a screening mammogram depends on your age and health profile. Your doctor can advise you on how often you should have a screening mammogram for optimal breast care.
If a mammogram has detected an abnormality in your breasts, your doctor will recommend that you get a more detailed examination. It is important for your health that you follow through with the additional testing to properly diagnose the abnormality. There are a number of tests that your doctor may order for you. These include.
During a diagnostic mammogram, the technologist will take several detailed images of the suspicious area as directed by the radiologist. The detailed images will help in the evaluation of your screening mammogram.
Frequently, an ultrasound will be performed along with a diagnostic mammogram to evaluate the suspicious area identified in your screening mammogram. It is a painless procedure that uses sound waves to make images of the inside of your breast. It is used to help determine if a lump in your breast is a benign cyst or a solid mass and to pinpoint the position of a tumor.
An ultrasound is also a good breast health test for women whose breast tissue is too dense for a mammogram, pregnant women, and women younger than 25 years old.
A biopsy is an out-patient procedure where your doctor uses a small needle to take tissue from part of your breast. The tissue is evaluated under a microscope. A biopsy is the only way to know for sure if the tissue is cancerous.
Sometimes, the doctor will recommend follow up testing every three or six months to make sure there are no abnormal changes occurring in your breasts. By closely monitoring your breast health, your doctor will be able to quickly treat any problems that develop in between your regular mammograms. Early treatment is imperative to your overall health.
Contact the Breast Care Experts At Raleigh Gynecology and Wellness
Good breast care is an important aspect of good health care overall for women. Consult with the women’s health experts at Raleigh Gynecology and Wellness for more information about breast health and schedule an appointment.