Discovering a physical change in your body can be alarming. Especially if you are a female and that change is to your breasts. Many people may become alarmed and suspect breast cancer. It is important to understand that breast lumps are common and do not always indicate breast cancer but they should be examined by a healthcare provider to rule out any issues.
It is recommended to do a self-exam on your breasts once a month at about the same time. The best time to do it is three to five days after menstruation starts. The reason for breast self-exams is so that you can become familiar with your breasts, identify any changes to the breasts early, and report them to a healthcare provider.
How Breasts Feel
Breasts are made up of many different tissues such as fat, glands, and connective tissue. It is common to have breast-related symptoms such as tenderness or lumpiness during the menstrual cycle. This is often caused by extra fluid buildup in the breasts. It is also normal for breasts to change during pregnancy, menopause, or while taking hormone medications.
What to Look for and When to See a Healthcare Provider
As you do self-breast exams you will become more familiar with how your breasts feel and if there is a change you will be able to identify it easily. The Mayo Clinic1 recommends consulting with a healthcare provider if you notice any of the following changes in your breasts:
- Finding a new breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue or the other breast
- Noticing a change in the size, shape, or appearance of a breast
- Having breast pain that doesn’t go away after the next period
- Noticing skin changes on a breast, such as itchiness, redness, scaling, dimpling, or puckering
- Having a newly inverted nipple
- Noticing nipple discharge
What to Expect from Your Healthcare Provider
When you see a healthcare provider about a concern with your breasts, they will likely ask you several questions about your symptoms, medical history, and what changes you have noticed. They will do an examination of the breasts by palpating them and looking at them. If your healthcare provider wants to proceed with further testing, they may recommend getting an imaging test such as a mammogram, ultrasound, or MRI. Remember that early detection is key and doing monthly self-breast exams are essential to help you identify any changes to your breasts.
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, December 3). Breast cancer self-checks: Look for more than lumps. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved December 22, 2022