If there are eight American women in a room, one will develop invasive
breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In 2016 alone, it’s
estimated that more than 246,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will
be diagnosed in the United States, along with 61,000 new cases of non-invasive
There also are incredibly encouraging breast-cancer statistics. For example,
when breast cancer is detected early and in a localized stage, the five-year
relative survival rate is 100 percent.
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and ATRIO Health Plans wants women to know that there are proactive steps
they can take to detect breast cancer when it’s most treatable.
Step One: Be Aware of Potential Symptoms
Step one is being aware of potential breast-cancer symptoms. If you have
any of the symptoms listed below, contact your healthcare provider promptly;
chances are good that cancer is not the cause, but it’s worth your
time to make an appointment if you notice:
- unusual nipple tenderness;
- changes in areola, nipple, or breast-skin texture, including enlarged pores,
pitting, or reddened scaling;
- a lump in/near the breast or underarm;
- any unexplained change in the size or shape of a breast;
- swelling of the breast, particularly if on only one side;
- decrease in breast size, especially if just one breast is impacted;
- a nipple that has turned slightly inward or become inverted;
- Skin of the breast, areola, or nipple has become scaly, red, or swollen;
also may have ridges or pitting resembling the skin of an orange;
- nipple discharges, particularly if they’re clear or bloody.
Step Two: Self-Exam
A woman’s next line of defense is performing monthly breast self-exams:
- In the shower – Move the pads of your fingers in a circular pattern
from the outside to the center of each breast and armpit area. If a lump,
thickening, or a hard knot is detected, contact your healthcare provider.
- In front of a mirror – Visually inspect your breasts, first with
arms at your sides, then raised overhead. Keep an eye out for changes
in breast as well as nipple shape, swelling, and skin dimpling; pay particular
attention to changes occurring in just one breast.
- Lying down – With a pillow under your right shoulder and your right
arm behind your head, move the finger pads on your left hand in a circular
motion over the entirety of your right breast and armpit area; gently
squeeze the nipple to test for discharge. Follow the same steps on your
Step Three: Mammogram and Clinical Exam
Women’s most effective early detection weapons are regularly scheduled
mammogram screenings and clinical breast exams.
Mammograms often can uncover a breast lump before it can be felt. They
also can point to potential abnormal cells. Current guidelines are:
- Women 40 and older should have mammograms every one or two years.
- Women who are younger than 40, and have breast-cancer-risk factors, should
ask their healthcare professional how often they should have a mammogram.
A clinical breast exam is performed by a healthcare professional trained
to recognize breast abnormalities. Most often, this exam is conducted
by your primary care physician or gynecologist as part of an annual assessment.
October is the ideal month for women to empower themselves and take proactive
steps to preserve their breast health.