Did you know that one out of every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime? The National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends that adult women of all ages self-test once a month for breast cancer. And in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, they have published a comprehensive and free complete Breast Health Guide.
The guide is an essential resource for all women, and includes tips on early detection and a guide to the symptoms of breast cancer that you should look for when conducting a breast self-exam. These include:
- A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area
- A change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling or puckering in the skin of the breast
- A nipple turned inward into the breast
- A fluid discharge from the nipple
- Scaly, red, or swollen skin on the breast, nipple, or areola (the dark area of skin at the center of the breast)
It’s important to note that these symptoms might not be evidence of cancer, but women who discover any of these conditions are encouraged to consult a physician for a checkup.
A monthly self-test is recommended, but it’s not enough. You should also schedule an annual Well-Woman Exam with your physician or gynecologist. This checkup includes a routine pelvic exam and pap smear, and potentially a breast exam to check for abnormalities.
The NBCF also recommends that women ages 40 and older get a mammogram (X-ray of the breast) every year. Mammograms can detect cancerous tumors and other abnormal breast conditions before a lump becomes large enough to be detected by touch. They’re safe, quick, and relatively painless procedures that offer an effective way to find breast cancer in its early stages when treatment is usually the most successful.