Some women are at higher risk for breast cancer than others but the fact is that all women are at risk for breast cancer. Although less common, some men also develop 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 them 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, and turning inward)
How to do a self-exam:
- 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 the skin, or changes in the nipple.
- 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.
- Squeeze each nipple gently between the 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 healthcare 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. Schedule Your Mammography
Mammograms are one of the most effective tools in early detection of breast cancer.
You should make an appointment if you have a family history of breast cancer or wide-ranging breast health issues such as:
- Dense breast tissue
- Fibrocystic breasts (breast cysts)
- Previous abnormal mammogram
- Experiencing pain, lumps, or discomfort in your breasts
Contact the Familial Breast Cancer Program at 312.413.1405 if you think you have a hereditary breast cancer risk to determine a breast cancer screening plan that is right for you.
Schedule a Mammogram
Talk to your primary care provider to request a referral for a mammogram. If you already have a doctor's order and would like to schedule your mammogram, contact our scheduling department at 312.413.4900.