Breast Health or Early Detection
Anatomy: The breast is covered with skin and it protects the lobules that produce the milk. The duct that carry the milk come together at the nipple-areola complex. There is also supportive connective tissue and fat. The breast is attached to the pectoralis muscle and the chest wall. To view a diagram of the anatomy of a breast, click here.
Self Breast Exam (Once a Month): Monthly breast self exams are an important part of breast health. Once a month (10 days after you start your menstrual cycle if you are still getting your period or the first of the month if you are postmenopausal) you should examine your breasts.
- You should start your exam by first looking in the mirror. Things you are looking for are any skin changes such as redness of the skin, a dimple or a nipple going the opposite direction than what you are used to, or if your skin takes on the appearance of an orange peel (peau d’orange). These are abnormalities that we would want to see you right away for. To view examples of these abnormalities, click here.
- Next, the breast exam should be performed. This can be done lying down, or more commonly standing in the shower. Begin with one arm over your head, and using firm, but gentle pressure, allow the pads of your finger s to glide over your breast moving from side to side or up and down. Remember, you have breast tissue from your clavicle, to your breastbone and even up into your armpit. Remember to cover all the bases. Repeat the exam on the other side.
- What does a mass feel like? Well, it can feel like a marble, or pea. It can be hard or rubbery. It can even be a thickening or a ridge. Most women do have thickening of the breast. This is called fibrocystic changes and it is found in over 80% of all women. It can make the breast exam more challenging, but with consistent exams, you will begin to know what is normal for you and what is a change to your normal exam.
Clinical Breast Exam (Once a Year): A clinical breast exam is an exam of your breast by a qualified nurse or doctor. Often it can be incorporated into your well woman exam. Clinical Breast Exams are performed much in the same way as a monthly self breast exam and is done in an effort to check for lumps or other physical changes.
Mammogram (Once a Year): A mammogram is an Xray of the breast and is the primary tool in diagnosing breast cancer. Generally mammograms are initiated at the age of 40 and are performed yearly or every two years thereafter. You may need more frequent mammograms based on the radiologist's recommendations. Earlier mammograms are at the discretion of your doctor. We perform digital mammograms here at Womack.