Some women are at higher risk than others but the fact is that all women are at risk for breast cancer. Preventative care is the best way to keep you and your breasts healthy and that is why it's so important to follow this three-step plan. Early detection of problems provides the greatest possibility of successful treatment and survival.
Step 1. Breast Self-Examination
Breast self-examinations (BSE) are an option for women ages 20 and older as a means of familiarizing themselves with their breasts to help notice changes more easily. A BSE should be done regularly at the same time every month. Regular BSE teaches you to know how your breasts normally feel so that you can more readily detect any change. Changes may include:
- Development of a lump
- A discharge other than breast milk
- Swelling of the breast
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Nipple abnormalities (such as, pain, redness, scaliness, turning inward)
How to do a self-exam:
1) In front of a mirror, inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms. Look for any changes in shape, swelling, dimpling of skin, or changes in the nipple.
2) Lie down with your fingers flat and move gently all over the breast. Check for lumps, hard knots, or thickening by moving fingers in a uniform pattern.
3) Squeeze each nipple gently between thumb and index finger. Any discharge, clear or bloody, should be reported to your doctor immediately.
If you notice any of these changes, see your health care provider as soon as possible for evaluation.
Step 2. Clinical Examination
A clinical breast examination by a physician or nurse trained to evaluate breast problems should be part of a woman's physical examination. The American Cancer Society recommends:
- Between ages 20 and 39, women should have a clinical breast examination (CBE) by a health professional every three years.
- After age 40, women should have a breast examination by a health professional every year.
Step 3. Mammography
A mammogram is an x-ray exam that can detect cancer in its early stages, even before a lump can be felt, when treatment can be most successful.
Who needs a mammogram and when:
- Annual screening mammography for all women beginning at age 40 and continuing as long as a woman remains in good health.
- Women who are at increased risk based on a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer or a personal history of radiation treatment to the chest region for certain cancers may be candidates for a screening breast MRI in addition to mammography annually.
- Women with hereditary risk for breast cancer may need to start having mammograms prior to age 40.
Contact the Familial Breast Cancer Program at 312.413.1405 if you think you might have hereditary breast cancer risk in order to determine a breast cancer screening plan that is right for you.
To learn more about our mammography services click here.