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What signs and symtoms should arouse suspicion?

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16.OCT.09

One must strive to have annual professional breast examinations but nonetheless your own experience should prompt the need for medical review. There are signs and symptoms that all persons must quickly bring to the attention of their medical team as soon as possible. These signs are as follows:{{more}}

  • Breast lump
  • Breast pain especially if not relating to trauma or monthly period
  • Discharge from nipple
  • Rough orange-peel like look to any region of the skin of the breast “pulling in/dimpling of the nipples which were previously outward
  • Appearances of marked differences between breasts

Both breasts are not exactly the same size and shape but this would only be noticed on close inspection. It is good to be suspicious if there seems to be any changes to the size of both or only one of the breasts that cannot be related to pregnancy, menstruation et cetera.

During menstruation breasts can become larger and tender but there must be suspicion if there is any significant increase in the size or tenderness. Many breast tumours respond to the changes in the hormones throughout the cycle and thus can cause pain or enlargement. Breast lumps are not unusual in young females and most are not cancers. All breast lumps nonetheless MUST be investigated to be sure of its nature. Investigation of any confirmed lumps should involve laboratory assessment

SURGICAL PROCEDURES INVOLVED IN BREAST CANCER DIAGNOSIS

After there is suspicion of an area or a mass has been recognized within the breasts it is paramount that that area be further investigated.

The following are surgical procedures can be performed to assist in further investigation:

  • Biopsy: Part of the mass is removed
  • Lumpectomy: The entire mass is removed
  • Needle aspiration: A needle is used to aspirate substance from the suspicious area
  • Axilla node harvesting: The surgeon at times will remove lymph nodes from under the arm to send to the laboratory for assessment along with mass from the breast.

Whenever the entire mass is removed the surgeon attempts to remove the mass along with non suspicious area to be sure that no cancerous tissue is left behind. Breast cancers can spread to the lymph nodes under the arm on the side of the affected breast.

These procedures are done for the purpose of further investigation by the Pathologist who makes the definitive diagnosis. Only the pathologist can confirm or deny is the suspicious tissue is a cancer.

RISK FACTORS ARE SITUATIONS THAT INCREASES THE CHANCES OF YOU DEVELOPING BREAST CANCERS. SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT RISK FACTORS ARE:

  • WOMEN WITH STRONG FAMILY HISTORY OF BREAST CANCER
  • A PERSON WITH PREVIOUS DIAGNOSIS OF BREAST CANCER
  • WOMEN WITH EXPOSURE TO RADIATION DURING OTHER TREATMENT THAT USES RADIATION
  • WOMEN WHO START THEIR PERIODS YOUNG AND END LATE I LIFE
  • WOMEN HAVING THEIR FIRST CHILD AFTER AGE THIRTY OR NO CHILDREN
  • WOMEN WHO ARE OBESES AFTER MENOPAUSE
  • PERSONS WITH GENETIC MARKERS THAT IS ASSOCIATED WITH BREAST CANCERS; THESE ARE FOUND BY LABORATORY TESTING
  • DIETHYLSTILBESTROL EXPOSURE: children of mothers who used this drug to prevent miscarriage (1960’s)
  • USE OF POST MENOPAUSAL HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY (HRT)
  • Alcohol conSumption

SELF BREAST EXAMINATION

FOR FEMALES

Stand in front of a mirror that is large enough for you to see your breasts clearly. Check each breast for anything unusual. Check the skin for puckering, dimpling, or ‘scaliness’. Look for a discharge from the nipples.

Watching closely in the mirror, clasp your hands behind your head and press your hands forward.

Next, press your hands firmly on your hips and bend slightly toward the mirror as you pull your shoulders and elbows forward.

During steps 2 and 3 to check for any change in the shape or contour of your breasts. As you do these steps, you should feel your chest muscles tighten.

GENTLY squeeze each nipple and look for a discharge.

The breasts are best examined while lying down because it spreads the breast tissue evenly over the chest. Lie flat on your back, with one arm over your head and a pillow or folded towel under the shoulder. This position flattens the breast and makes it easier to check.

Use the pads of the fingers of your other hand to check the breast and the surrounding area firmly, carefully, and all over. Some women like to use lotion or powder to help their fingers glide easily over the skin. Feel for any unusual lump or mass under the skin. Feel the tissue by pressing your fingers in small, overlapping areas about the size of twenty-five cents. To be sure you cover the whole breast, take your time during the examination.

BREAST EXAMINATION FOR MEN

Men’s breast examination is similar to women except that most women have more breast tissue than men.

That means steps 5 and 6 takes less time and thus can quicken the examination. Men with conditions like gynaecomastia (feminine-like breasts) have no short cuts. They should follow the identical female routine.

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