Finding Breast Cancer Early
As people around the world unite to support breast cancer survivor warriors during Breast Cancer Awareness month, it’s crucial that we learn more about this dangerous disease and equip women to both detect and fight it.
Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women in the U.S. and affects thousands, with an estimated 287,000 new cases being diagnosed in 2022. Early detection is critical for survival.
Here are the three best ways to identify symptoms of breast cancer:
- Self-exams: Self-examinations are responsible for around 40% of all cases of diagnosed breast cancers. Performing a self-check once a month is enough to help improve your chances of identifying potential lumps or pain which could indicate cancer. This helpful graphic breaks down how to do a self-exam:
- Clinical exam: Another breast cancer detection method is a clinical exam performed by a doctor. This is an in-office procedure where a healthcare professional examines your breasts for signs of abnormalities. Your healthcare provider will check your breasts both manually and visually. For the latter, you might be asked to adopt different poses which allow the provider to check for dimpling, rashes or other abnormalities. They might squeeze your nipple to check for discharge, too. The manual exam is conducted similarly to the self-check procedure. Your provider will use the pads of their fingers to apply varying degrees of pressure to your armpit, underarm, breast and collarbone to check for lumps or abnormalities. Note that not all lumps are cancerous! Some people have small ridges and bumps naturally.
- Mammogram exam: Mammograms are x-ray machines which allow healthcare providers to examine the interior of your breast for any potential issues. This procedure is conducted at a healthcare facility of some kind and consists of taking images of the breasts. Qualified specialists will then interpret the x-rays and look for any abnormalities. Community Access Network has screening services available through Centra’s Mammogram Van once a month. Anyone can receive services, regardless of ability to pay or insurance. Call us at 434-818-7880 to schedule your mammogram when the van is at our clinic (next date: Nov. 15).
According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is detected early and is localized to one area, the 5-year survival rate is 99%. Regular exams are critical to the early detection of breast cancer, so make sure you schedule mammograms and doctor exams as often as your provider recommends and perform a self-check every month. Doing so could save your life.