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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast self-exams and knowing your normal

Author: Baylor Scott & White Health-

Throughout an individual’s lifetime, many changes occur naturally to the breasts. Changes may happen during the menstruation cycle, pregnancy, when breastfeeding, and during or after menopause.
Sometimes, changes can be a sign something is wrong. Breast self-exams help identify what is normal, and when these changes may have occurred.

Know what’s normal for you

A self-exam of breasts includes both touching them and looking at them. By doing so, about once each month, it will be easy to notice any changes that may occur in density, size, color and shape. As discussed above, it’s normal to experience some changes around certain times of your cycle.

Here are the specific changes you should watch for:

  • Size or shape of breasts or nipples
  • Hard lumps, masses or knots in breasts
  • Hard knots in armpit area
  • Dimples, puckering or ridges
  • Sores, warmth or redness on breast skin
  • Rashes on nipples
  • Bloody nipple discharge
Know your specific risk factors

“Breast health goes beyond just doing regular self-exams. You also need to know what the controllable risk factors are,” said Dr. John McIntire, Radiology, Baylor Scott & White – The Brenham Clinic. “Things like obesity, or extra weight, tobacco and alcohol consumption can all increase your risk for breast cancer.” Be sure to talk with your doctor to make decisions about your health that are right for you.

Know your unique family history

Early detection is key to treating breast cancer for many people, and knowing your family history can help you remain alert to the importance of bringing your concerns to your doctor in a timely manner.

“Know which family members have had breast cancer and if certain individuals may have had recommendations to be tested for a particular gene,” said Dr. Jeffrey Stoltenberg, General Surgery, Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Brenham. “This can help your doctor determine if you need early check-ups, genetic counseling or other tests.”

Every person is different – and only you know your normal. If you have concerns, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor.


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