October is breast cancer awareness month, which means something a little different for everyone. Some of you may have lost a close loved one to breast cancer, others may have battled it themselves, ultimately, everyone knows or has known at least one person who has had the disease. Like most cancers, early detection saves lives. A crucial part of early detection is knowing your breasts and performing regular self-exams. This plays a major role in breast health, as finding breast cancer as early as possible gives you a better chance of successful treatment.
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A painless, hard mass that has irregular edges is more likely to be cancer, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, or rounded. They can even be painful. Because of this, it is important that if you develop any new breast mass, lump or change, you have it checked out by a health care professional experienced in diagnosing breast diseases.
Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:
· Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt
· Skin irritation or dimpling (sometimes looking like an orange peel)
· Breast or nipple pain
· Nipple retraction (turning inward)
· Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
· Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
Sometimes a breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm or around the collar bone, and cause a lump or swelling there; even before the original tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt. Swollen lymph nodes should also be checked by a health care provider. While any of these symptoms can be caused by something other than breast cancer, if you experience any of these changes, they should be reported to a health care professional so a proper diagnosis can be made.
It is very important to know your body and the potential symptoms of breast cancer, but knowing what to look for does not take the place of having regular mammograms and other screening tests. Screening tests can help find breast cancer in its early stages, before any symptoms appear.
Wear your pink proud this month, and don't be afraid to spread the word about breast cancer awareness- it could turn out to be the breast choice you've ever made.