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Breast cancer awareness and preventive methods such as healthy living are the most important ways you can stay healthy.
For women who are not at the recommended age (40) to begin screening mammograms, it is important to conduct regular breast self-exams. It is important to look for changes that are not due to your regular cycle such as:
- A change in the size or shape of the breast
- A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area
- Ridges or pitting of the breast (the skin looks like the skin of an orange)
- A change in the way the skin of the breast, areola, or nipple looks or feels (for example, warm, swollen, red, or scaly).
A woman should see her doctor about any symptoms like these. Most often, it is not cancer, but it's important to check with your doctor so that any problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
Clinical Breast Exam
If an irregularity is detected or for a more thorough examination, a clinical breast exam should be performed. Your doctor performs a careful physical exam and asks about your personal and family medical history. By carefully feeling the lump and the tissue around it, your physician can determine its size and texture and whether it moves easily. All of these examinations can help your physician determine if the lump is benign or cancerous.
If you are under age 40, you should have a clinical breast exam every three years. Annual exams are best for women over age 40.
A mammogram is a special kind of x-ray that is different from a chest x-ray or x-rays of other parts of the body. It can give the doctor important information about a breast lump.
A screening mammogram is the best tool available for finding breast cancer early—even before you are able to feel the lump or other symptoms appear. A screening mammogram can spotlight changes in the breast that could be a sign of cancer, including small deposits of calcium. While these are usually benign (non-cancerous), they could be an early sign of cancer. If an area on the mammogram looks suspicious or is not clear, additional diagnostic mammograms or a breast ultrasound may be needed.
Mammograms and other tests are available at Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center's Breast Care Center. To learn more, review information about breast screening and diagnostics »