The Importance of Screening
Because early detection is the best defense against breast cancer, the Breast Diagnostic Center is committed to educating women about the importance of screening, which is critical in the fight against the disease that affects millions of women every year. A screening mammogram is very important in your overall health. Keep in mind that if your mother was diagnosed with any form of breast cancer before 50 years of age, your screening exams should begin by age 40. The general rule is that you should be screened beginning 10 years before the age of diagnosis of your mother, but not before 25 and always starting at 40.
Screening has several different layers, and the most critical piece starts with you taking an active role in your healthcare.
Breast Self Exam
The first line of defense in early detection is you. That’s why it’s important for you to be familiar with your breasts. Regularly examining your breasts can be an important tool in finding breast cancer early – when the potential for successful treatment is much greater.
The Breast Diagnostic Center recommends that all women routinely perform breast self-exams (BSE) – as often as once a month – as part of their overall breast healthcare strategy. BSEs should not, however, replace diagnostic screening tools like clinical breast exams and mammograms, as recommended by your healthcare provider.
While you may be unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the process at first, the more often you do a BSE, the more familiar and at ease you will be.
Get to know how your breasts look and feel – knowing what looks and feels normal will help you in recognizing changes in your breasts. If you note any of the following in your BSE, contact your doctor:
- Lump, hard knot or thickening
- Swelling, warmth, redness, or darkening
- Change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling or puckering of the skin
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
- Sudden nipple discharge
- New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away
Click here to download a Breast Self-Exam Card. Print this and keep it at home for easy reference.
Clinical Breast Exam
A clinical breast exam (CBE) is a simple test that should be done as part of your regular medical checkup. The exam involves either a physician, nurse, nurse practitioner or other trained medical staff evaluating both breasts and underarms. Your healthcare provider will check your breasts, and is looking and feeling for any abnormalities, including changes in size and shape, changes in the skin, and lumps.
Women should start getting CBEs at age 20 as part of their routine breast cancer screening strategy. When women begin having mammograms, it’s important to continue receiving CBEs from your physician – as these complement your overall breast health plan.