There has been some debate about whether or not breast self-examinations are an effective screening tool to detect breast cancer early. However, there are other reasons you may want to consider doing a regular self exam of your breasts.
Familiarity means you notice changes
There are lots of reasons your breasts could change, and most of them are not breast cancer. But, just because the changes aren’t caused by cancer doesn’t mean they aren’t worth noticing and discussing with Dr. Neyman.
If you perform regular self-exams, you’re far more likely to notice a change in how your breasts look or feel.
The most common reason for changes in your breasts
You probably already know the most common reason for changes in how your breasts feel — hormonal fluctuations. At various times during your menstrual cycle, your breasts may be swollen or tender, or feel lumpy.
Experts recommend doing a self-exam at the end of your menstrual cycle, when your breasts are least likely to feel tender. By doing the exam at about the same time each month, you develop a sense of how they normally feel at that time.
Other causes of changes to your breasts
There are several conditions that can cause your breasts to feel or look different than normal.
Cysts form when the fluid that is normally produced as part of your menstrual cycle isn’t absorbed. Doctors aren’t sure why some women are more likely to develop cysts than others, and most often, cysts don’t become cancerous.
Sometimes, though, cysts can be painful. If you’ve found a lump during a regular self-exam, you may have a cyst, and should discuss it with Dr. Neyman. Cysts can be drained, so you no longer have the pain they can cause.
Another possible cause of change in your breasts is a fibroadenoma, which is a lump that is made up of fibrous and glandular tissue. Sometimes called a “breast mouse,” a fibroadenoma isn’t usually cancer and rarely becomes cancerous.
If you have a fibroadenoma, you may need to have it removed — or it may not require treatment at all. Dr. Neyman is happy to make a recommendation for your specific circumstances.
No one knows why some women develop small star-shaped abnormalities, but if you have a radial scar, Dr. Neyman will likely want to do a biopsy. Sometimes radial scars show pre-cancer changes or even contain small cancers.
Although there is still debate about whether or not breast self-examination is an effective method for early detection of breast cancer, there’s no debate about the advantages of being familiar with your breasts.
If you have questions about the reasons you should perform regular breast self-exams, or you’d like information on how to perform a self-exam, contact us online or by phone to schedule an appointment with Dr. Neyman. She’s happy to answer your questions.